The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Disaster Movie Day *

* (restored/expanded)

 

‘A disaster film is a film genre that has an impending or ongoing disaster as its subject and primary plot device. Such disasters include natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or asteroid collisions, accidents such as shipwrecks or airplane crashes, or calamities like worldwide disease pandemics. The films usually feature some degree of build-up, the disaster itself and sometimes the aftermath, usually from the point of view of specific individual characters or their families.

‘These films often feature large casts of actors and multiple plotlines, focusing on the characters’ attempts to avert, escape or cope with the disaster and its aftermath. The genre came to particular prominence during the 1970s with the release of high-profile films such as Airport (1970), followed in quick succession by The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974) and The Towering Inferno (1974).

‘The casts were generally made up of familiar character actors. Once the disaster begins in the film, the characters are usually confronted with human weaknesses, often falling in love and almost always finding a villain to blame. The genre experienced a renewal in the 1990s boosted by computer-generated imagery (CGI) and large studio budgets which allowed for more focus on the destruction, and less on the human drama, as seen in films like 1998’s Armageddon and Deep Impact. Nevertheless, the films usually feature a persevering hero or heroine (Charlton Heston, Steve McQueen, etc.) called upon to lead the struggle against the threat. In many cases, the “evil” or “selfish” individuals are the first to succumb to the conflagration.’ — collaged

 

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Further

List of disaster films
DISASTER FILMS: Description and Examples
10 Defining 1970s Disaster Movies
THE CYNICISM OF THE MODERN DISASTER FILM
Climate change and cinema
Apocalypse wow: how Hollywood fell for disaster movies
Disaster films reflect nation’s turbulence
Why we can’t get enough of disaster films
Disaster films examined. Science or fiction?
Disaster Movies: A Loud, Long, Explosive, Star-studded Guide
Disaster Movies: The Cinema of Catastrophe
Representing politics in disaster films
Can a low-budget Russian disaster film look like a Hollywood blockbuster?
RECONSIDERING DISASTER FILMS AS HORROR
WHAT DISASTER FILMS MISS ABOUT DEATH
The lure of the disaster movie
A Scientist’s Perspective on Hollywood Disaster Films
TRENDS IN 70’S CINEMA: DISASTER MOVIES
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE DISASTER FILM GENRE

 

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Drugged popcorn
by Fred Kaplan

 

It’s true enough that the boredom of modern life both stimulates and requires the production of various kinds of spectacles, mass entertainment and otherwise. But is that all film criticism has to say in the face of the diverse forms these spectacles take? If it’s all reducible to boredom, then we don’t have to concern ourselves with how and why certain trends appear and gain popularity at different times. Monster and science-fiction films, big musicals, biblical epics, etc., all would then be regarded a essentially the same thing—“just entertainment” movies designed to satisfy the escapist longings of the masses and reap huge profits for the studios. But clearly the problem is more complicated than that.

On the most obvious level, if all spectacular, big budget movies were always equally big box office successes, Hollywood would have its tasks and worries enormously simplified. But beyond that, to argue that the disaster films do in fact reflect contemporary social reality, i.e., a society in crisis, does not require us to posit some kind of deliberate intention to achieve this on the part of those responsible for their production. The ways in which social factors condition and in turn are revealed in artistic production are complex and multifold. They often operate unconsciously, as if “behind the backs” of the individual artist or producer. That person, if asked about it, often quite sincerely denies that his or her work contains a political message, social implications, or anything other than what should be viewed in purely creative terms.

So in examining the disaster films, it may be less important to prove or disprove whether their creators had any consciously allegorical or ideological aims in mind, than it is to analyze what the plot, characterizations, and various dramatic devices are saying to the audience.

In THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, EARTHQUAKE, and THE TOWERING INFERNO the disasters take the immediate form of great, overwhelming natural phenomena: a huge tidal wave, an earthquake, fire. The first two of these disasters could have been mitigated, the third avoided, but for the corruption, greed, or incompetence of certain individuals. The greedy Greek shipping company has made the Poseidon dangerously top-heavy but refuses the Captain’s request to slow its speed. In EARTHQUAKE both the seismology experts and the mayor hesitate to take the appropriate steps for fear of looking foolish if the quake didn’t happen. In THE TOWERING INFERNO there’s the corruption of the building’s electrical contractor who skimped on materials to increase his profits.

I would suggest that all of these films symbolically reproduce what happens to bourgeois ideology — the ideology which continues to maintain its hegemony in capitalist society — when it is subjected to the strains of a period of crisis.

The fact that the disasters come in the shape of natural phenomena corresponds to the fundamental reification of capitalist society. This is the idea that the economy is somehow a “natural” force itself, perceived by human beings as not only somewhat mysteriously independent of their will and activity but actually subjugating them to its own requirements. In the work of the classical bourgeois political economists, and even for some contemporary diehards like Milton Friedman, the market economy of capitalism is a rational, self-regulating force (the “invisible hand” is the mechanism of this rationality). Conventional economic wisdom was modified by Keynesian economics, which, to put it very roughly, sought to be able to remedy the dysfunctions of the market through government intervention in the economy.

What do these doctrines, together with their baggage of associated ideas, look like when they reach the level of mass ideology? Again, to put these things very roughly, there’s the notion that capitalism is “natural,” in accordance with “human nature,” and therefore the most workable system. There is also the idea that either the unimpeded workings of the market economy are rational and desirable (“our great free enterprise system,” which maximizes freedom of choice) or, since this was beginning to ring hollow even in times of prosperity, that the experts will know what to do to keep things running all right.

But bourgeois ideological hegemony is put in different straits, just as most working people are, when a crisis or slump hits. Inevitably the idea of blaming specific individuals for the problem—not the system itself—begins to occur, coined in terms of corruption, greed, etc.. To beat the crisis, what people have to do is to work together, make sacrifices, and get rid of the undesirable elements who were to blame for it, as well as the worn out leaders and “experts” who were unable to prevent and then deal with it. The need for new, fresh, energetic leadership is stressed. At the same time an appeal to traditional values of sacrifice, hard work, and self-help is made.

This is essentially what occurs in microcosm in the disaster films, particularly THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and EARTHQUAKE. Heroic leaders emerge (Gene Hackman, Charlton Heston) who come into conflict with previous, but now discredited, figures of authority, and ultimately guide people through the disaster to survival. Traditional values are constantly referred to and drawn upon throughout the adventure/ ordeal, from which they emerge revivified.

I hasten to add that it’s not only “the economy” that is reified in bourgeois ideological notions, nor is that sphere the only area of modern capitalist society which has proven susceptible to crisis. An undertow of dissent and dissatisfaction manifested itself in different ways at various times in the postwar period. The dissent intensified in the late 60s in what appeared to be an outbreak of social turmoil in politics, racial relations, sexual attitudes and behavior, culture, education, etc. Each of these related aspects of contemporary society experienced and continues to experience developments similar to what happens in regard to the economy at a time of crisis. Established institutions, conceptions, and authorities are hard-pressed by events and their viability is challenged. In the same way, there are attempts to maintain a sick status quo aimed at singling out culpable individuals as the cause of the problems (“outside agitators,” “over permissive” parents and educators, the press, various “misfits,” etc.). In turn there is a move to promote new, “dynamic” leadership ready and able to confront the culpable ones toughly, and a call for a return to the “time-tested” values and virtues.

 

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37 “disasters” (1969 – 2017)

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Bernard L. Kowalski Krakatoa East of Java (1969)
‘It’s generally accepted that the blockbuster business generated by the release of “Airport” in 1970 inspired the disaster movie craze of the decade. However, the year before, Cinerama’s “Krakatoa: East of Java” was a forerunner. The fact that the film was a critical and financial flop results in it often being overlooked in discussions of the disaster movie genre. The making of the film was covered in detail by Dave Worrall in Cinema Retro issue #22, but suffice it say, the entire production proved to be problematic both in terms of bringing it to the screen and also in regard to its marketing. The screenplay Clifford Newton Gould and Bernard Gordon uses the 1883 eruption of the titular island as the basis for an adventure epic, although what emerged was somewhat less than epic. Overlooking the fact that the historical record of the eruption, which had effect on nations worldwide, is presented in a simplistic, fictional manner, the production’s dramatic qualities are also lacking, squeezing in a number of sub-plots that don’t pay off in a satisfying manner.’ — Lee Pfeiffer


the entire film

 

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Ronald Neame The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
‘Even with the exceedingly dated special effects and hammy “Oh gawd we’re flipping over!” reactions, this sequence—which comes just after everyone below decks has finished boozily welcoming the New Year at midnight—is still a jaw-dropper. The subsequent moment when water punches through the wall of the ballroom—bringing certain death to those who refused to follow Rev. Scott’s pleas to evacuate—is almost as startling. And it’s at this point that the movie reveals its most brilliant piece of fashion innovation. At the New Year’s Eve party, teenager Susan (Pamela Sue Martin) is wearing a long dress, but when it comes time to climb to safety, she reveals that the skirt is detachable and conceals a pair of coordinating shorts. Apparently, this was a thing when it came to formalwear in the 1970s? But while Susan’s wardrobe choices are thrilling to see today, the treatment of Belle Rosen (Shelley Winters) has aged less well. “A fat woman like me can’t climb,” the kindly Belle insists. It’s the first in a jarringly mean running series of remarks about her weight, and it never gets any easier to hear them. She’s a grandmother, not a swimsuit model … …But she is—AS IT HAPPENS—a former underwater swimming champ of New York (for three years running!), as illustrated by what’s probably the most famous scene in The Poseidon Adventure.’ — gizmodo


Extended trailer


Excerpt

 

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John Guillermin The Towering Inferno (1974)
The Towering Inferno was produced by Irwin Allen, known as the “Master of Disaster” (also produced The Poseidon Adventure), and directed by John Guillermin. Note: Irwin Allen directed the action scenes. The film, written by Stirling Silliphant, was a fusion of two books: The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. The Towering Inferno was obviously a big budget film, with its ton of special effects and, most of all, its all-star cast: Paul Newman, Steven McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain, O.J Simpson, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, etc. A real Hollywood dream. The film costed around $14 000 000 to produce (around $68 000 000 today) and was a big commercial success, winning around $140 000 000 at the world box office on its release ($678 000 000 today).’ — The Wonderful World of Cinema


Trailer


The Making of …

 

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Mark Robson Earthquake (1974)
‘Inspired by the 1971 San Fernando earthquake that registered a 6.6 on the Richter scale, this disaster movie shook up its audience as well as its all-star cast. The studio employed an innovation known as “Sensurround” that involved giant speakers blasting low frequencies throughout theater auditoriums — the better to make filmgoers feel as if they were in the middle of real rumbler. The use of the aftershock-and-awe ballyhoo admittedly helped sell the abundance of shakicam on display, as well as temper some of the more genuinely giggle-inducing moments of mayhem (debris rains down, the earth cracks open…and then a stunt rider falls off his bike). Yet our favorite WTF moment doesn’t involve a technological gimmick; it’s the introduction of a truckload of cows (?) that careens off the Los Angeles freeway. Every time we watch that bovine nosedive, we can feel the earth move.’ — Rolling Stone


Excerpt

 

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Robert Michael Lewis The Day the Earth Moved (1974)
‘A pair of aerial photographers (Jackie Cooper and Cleavon Little) shooting pix in the Nevada desert determine that a massive earthquake is about to hit a tiny town in the middle of nowhere – but in tried and true disaster-movie fashion, the town’s residents don’t believe them till it’s too late, requiring them to fly back on a last minute rescue mission. An entertainingly cheap, but ultimately forgettable made-for-TV movie that was obviously trying to ride on the coat tails of the then-current big budget flick Earthquake!’ — Keith Act


the entire film

 

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Corey Allen Avalanche (1978)
‘”A mountain explodes, in a shattering blast of white fury!” Well, okay, if by “blast of white fury” you mean “the appearance of a thousand fire extinguishers going off at once.” All Rock Hudson wanted was to open up a nice ski resort and impress ex-wife Mia Farrow — how was he to know that a nearby plane crash would set off “20,000 tons of icy terror”? Directed by Corey Allen (no relation to Irwin, clearly) and produced by schlockmeister extraordinaire Roger Corman, this disaster movie features the sort of laughably bad set pieces that make you wonder if the special-effects budget exceeded three figures. Even the flooding of a hotel lobby by a giant snow drift feels MST3K-ready from the get-go.’ — Rolling Stone


the entire film

 

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Irwin Allen The Swarm (1978)
‘After successfully producing and directing 1974’s Towering Inferno, “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen took on the dual role once again in this outing about a swarm of killer bees that migrate from South America and threaten to infest Houston. Michael Caine’s entomologist teams up with a heavy-handed general (Richard Widmark) to thwart the deadly bugs. Critics gave the film stinging reviews, but it’s camp at its best.’ — infoplease


Trailer


Highlights

 

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Ronald Neame Meteor (1979)
‘Another costly casualty of the disaster genre ebb was Meteor, a 1979 production that top-lined an impressive cast: Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard and Henry Fonda. It was produced by Gabe Gatzka and Sandy Howard (among others), two veterans with very respected backgrounds in the film industry. The film was directed by another highly respected individual, Ronald Neame, the man who had helmed The Poseidon Adventure. On paper, the project must have looked like a “can’t lose” proposition. Yet, Meteor turned out to be a major flop at the boxoffice as well as a critical disaster. What went wrong? To start with, it was probably ill-advised to entrust the production to American-International Pictures which specialized in making low-budget horror and teeny bopper exploitation films. The AIP association branded Meteor with a “cheesy” stigma even before cameras rolled.’– Cinema Retro


the entire film

 

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Irwin Allen Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)
‘On the morning after the Poseidon’s disastrous night, tugboat captain Michael Caine and sidekick Sally Field get back on board the Poseidon and find left-over survivors who were not drowned during the original movie, and then bad guy Telly Savalas puts them all in jeopardy, and then… But what did we really, sincerely, expect anyway, from a movie in which Karl Malden plays a character named ‘Wilbur,’ and Slim Pickens plays a character named ‘Tex’? If you can think of a single line of dialog that Slim Pickens, as ‘Tex,’ wouldn’t say in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, please do not miss this movie, which will be filled with amazements and startling revelations.’ — Roger Ebert

the entire film


The Making of …

 

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James Goldstone When Time Ran Out… (1980)
‘I recently came across an interesting segment of “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson from 1980 with Carson interviewing William Holden while he’s on the show to promote his latest film When Time Ran Out… (1980), a terrible Irwin Allen-produced disaster film about tourists on a Pacific island fleeing in terror from an erupting volcano. With shoddy special effects, mostly indifferent performances (especially by Paul Newman), slow pacing, and bad writing, When Time Ran Out… is the sort of film that makes people cynical about Hollywood filmmaking since it was produced as part of a deal Irwin Allen made with Warner Brothers to make a series of disaster movies that included The Swarm (1978), Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) and countless made-for-TV movies. My understanding is that Paul Newman and William Holden only appeared in the movie to fulfill their contractual obligation to do another disaster epic for Irwin Allen after making The Towering Inferno (1974) for him. By the time When Time Ran Out… was made, the genre had run its course and Warner Brothers had become impatient with Allen to such a degree that they purportedly cut the budget of the movie in mid-production, thus explaining the threadbare production values and special effects. I’ve read that Holden didn’t like the film at all, particularly as he got billing below Paul Newman, as well as the fact that leading lady Jacqueline Bisset doesn’t end up with his character at the end, but with Newman’s. I also recall reading in Bob Thomas’ biography of William Holden that he drank heavily throughout the production of When Time Ran Out… and that that alarmed the filmmakers since the film entailed difficult stunts and locations. As such, it was apparent that this was hardly one of Holden’s proudest accomplishments as an actor.’ — Hill Place


Excerpt

 

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Kenjirô Ohmori Deathquake (1980)
Deathquake, made in 1980, is a disaster movie that is not a new area for Toho. Films like Nippon chinbotsu AKA Submersion of Japan (1973) were very successful in Japan, among the few other films. In Deathquake, the story itself is quite simple. Seismologist Yoichi Kawazu (Hiroshi Katsuno) finds out that an enormous earthquake will hit Tokyo, Japan. This information will have a strong affect on him, and his relationship with his wife and son is hurting. His superiors and other important people don´t take him that seriously, so he´s looking for comfort with a young woman. In the meantime, the earthquake is coming nearer and nearer. Some effects-scenes are very affective, considering that there were no CGI-effects (all were made via miniatures and sets, with a few photographic-effects here-and-there).’ — DVD Compare


the entire film

 

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Ernest Pintoff St. Helens (1981)
‘St. Helens is a 1981 made-for-cable HBO television film directed by Ernest Pintoff, and starring David Huffman, Art Carney, Cassie Yates, and Albert Salmi. The film centers on the events leading up to the cataclysmic 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington, with the story beginning on the day volcanic activity started on March 20, 1980, and ending on the day of the eruption, May 18, 1980. The film premiered on May 18, 1981, on the first anniversary of the eruption. The film is noted for being the first Hollywood soundtrack of the Italian prog-rock group Goblin.’ — Wiki


the entire film

 

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Georg Fenady Cave In! (1983)
Cave-In! is an American action film starring Dennis Cole, Leslie Nielsen, and James Olson. The movie was produced by Irwin Allen in 1979 in association with Warner Bros. Television for NBC but not aired until 1983. A park ranger must lead a US senator, a disgraced cop, his wife, a manipulative professor and his daughter across five miles of dangerous terrain to escape an unstable cavern, unaware that the seventh member of the group is an armed and violent escaped convict.’ — Wikipedia


the entire film

 

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Jan de Bont Twister (1996)
Twister, directed by Jan de Bont, is tireless filmmaking. It lacks the wit of his Speed, but it sure has the energy. If the actors in this movie want to act, they have to run to catch up with the camera, which is already careening down a dirt road to watch while an oil tanker truck spins into the air, crashes and explodes. The movie is wall-to-wall with special effects, and they’re all convincing, although it’s impossible for me to explain how Bill and Jo escape serious injury while staring right up into the Suck Zone of the Finger of God. I think the movie has to be graded on two scales. As drama, Twister resides in the Zone. It has no time to waste on character, situation, dialogue and nuance. The dramatic scenes are holding actions between tornadoes. As spectacle, however, Twister is impressive. The tornadoes are big, loud, violent and awesome, and they look great.’ — Roger Ebert


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Ridley Scott White Squall (1996)
‘Although screenwriter Todd Robinson and director Ridley Scott take forever to get there, the central event is a titanic storm, the white squall of the title, that capsizes the ship and takes the lives of several students and Sheldon’s wife. After the survivors are rescued, despite his heroic efforts to save his students and crew, Sheldon is brought up before a tribunal threatening to take his sailing certificate away. The only question I can think of at this point is “Why?”‘ — SFGate


Trailer

 

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Roger Donaldson Dante’s Peak (1997)
‘In the opening, Pierce Brosnan makes his debut as shrill vulcanologist Harry Dalton. In Harry’s first words he screams something incomprehensible that sounds like “Get out of here.” The bad news is that you will be able to hear the rest of the dialog in the film. (“I’ve always been better at volcanoes than figuring out people and politics,” Harry tells us. “I move around a lot, wherever there’s a volcano with an attitude,” he explains in another scene.) If you liked TWISTER, you’ll probably find DANTE’S PEAK equally satisfying. In both films, the star is backed up by a rag-tag team of nerds ready to save their hero at a moment’s notice. (The team is at its funniest when the volcano erupts. When the team runs to their computers to see the images, the only female nerd, looking out the window, chides them, “Why look at the computer when you can look at the real thing.”) Like TWISTER, the only reason for the film to exist are the special effects. Although the special effects by Thomas Kittle are spectacular, the sound effects by David MacMillan are even more impressive. Some of the explosions had me almost jumping out of my seat.’ — Steve Rhodes


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Mick Jackson Volcano (1997)
‘I expected to see a mountainous volcano in Volcano, towering high over Los Angeles. But the movie takes place at ground level; It’s about how lava boils out of the La Brea Tar Pits, threatens a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, and then takes a shortcut through the city sewer system. The ads say “The Coast Is Toast,” but maybe they should say “The Volcano Is Drano.” This is a surprisingly cheesy disaster epic. It’s said that Volcano cost a lot more than Dante’s Peak, a competing volcano movie released two months ago, but it doesn’t look it. Dante’s Peak had better special effects, a more entertaining story, and a real mountain. Volcano is an absolutely standard, assembly-line undertaking; no wonder one of the extras is reading a paperback titled “Screenwriting Made Easy.” The movie stars Tommy Lee Jones, professional as always even in this flimsy story, as the chief of the city’s Office of Emergency Management. He races through the obligatory opening scenes of all disaster movies (everyday life, ominous warnings, alarm sounded by hero scientist, warnings poo-pooed by official muckety-mucks, etc.). Soon manhole covers are being blown sky-high, subway trains are being engulfed by fireballs, and “lava bombs” are flying through the air and setting miniature sets on fire.’ — Roger Ebert


Montage of excerpts

 

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Graeme Campbell Volcano: Fire on the Mountain (1997)
‘The main character even says “pyroclastic flow”!!!!! I am going to work that phrase into every review of every volcano movie I watch. Cheap TV movies used to be so much better. The success of Sharknado really laid the ground work for bad CGI work to carry too many of this garbage movies through. This one had to make do with smoke and lava that looks like someone’s chumming the ocean. And you know what? I loved it. The relationship drama was just as pointless and hackneyed, the characters just as empty, but the effects at least did look like bad photoshopping.’ — Sally Jane Black


the entire film

 

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Mimi Leder Deep Impact (1998)
‘Rare indeed is the artist/entertainer who can juggle convincing emotion and convincing CGI effects. Deep Impact juggles so relentlessly that it seems positively schizo, giving us a little “character development” here and a little mini-disaster there, leading up to the big event — death from above, the tidal waves and mass destruction, the skyscrapers scattering like petals. And good God, does this ever not work. You can feel the audience’s impatience during the obligatory tedious dialogue scenes, the disappointment when the movie finally gets around to those big destruction scenes, which can’t possibly live up to all the build-up and anticipation.’ — efilmcritic


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Mikael Salomon Hard Rain (1998)
Hard Rain is one of those movies that never convince you its stories are really happening. From beginning to end, I was acutely aware of actors being paid to stand in cold water. Suspension of my disbelief in this case would have required psychotropic medications.’ — Roger Ebert


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Wolfgang Petersen The Perfect Storm (2000)
‘The special effects and the action scenes are excellent, but this film fails in many ways. It’s very hard to make a good book into a good movie, even a good book that seems inherently cinematic, as this one does, with all its swirling winds and crashing waves. The dialogue is corny, with lines like “This is where they separate the men from the boys.” The storm doesn’t happen until an hour and a half into the film, and each of the characters is trotted out to show one identifying characteristic. Wahlberg, Fichtner, Lane, and Reilly, four fine actors, are left more adrift by the script than their characters are by the storm, while the talents of other good actors are wasted. The book tells a sad story, but the film just feels maudlin, and the scenes on land following the storm go on too long. This is where we really need some insight and some good dialogue, and we just don’t get it. And there is one scene, just before one character dies, where he speaks to a loved one and sees her in an apparition that even the producers of “Message in a Bottle” would have been embarrassed to try.’ — Common Sense Media


Excerpt

 

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James Seale Scorcher (2002)
‘Ripped from today’s theater screens comes the latest direct-to-DVD knockoff, Scorcher, a tepid reworking of The Core. Say what you will about using lame source material, Scorcher is laughably bad in its own right. As with Core, our meddling has caused some kind of tectonic trouble, and if the gap between two plates opens wider than 44 centimeters (yeah, whatever), then we will literally have “hell on earth” as earthquakes and volcanoes sprout up all over the planet. Uh huh. And so our hero geologists (including John Rhys-Davies!), under the direction of President Rutger Hauer(!!!), are tasked with finding a solution. Naturally, that involves setting off a nuclear bomb somewhere. In the case of Scorcher, it means detonating the nuke in central Los Angeles. Sounds like an improvement to me, but whatever, after quietly evacuating the tens of millions of people who live there, a wrench involving our military co-hero (Mark Dacascos) and a kidnapped daughter gets thrown at us, not to mention crossed signals between the military dudes tasked with getting the nukes set just so.’ — Contact Music


Trailer

 

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Jon Amiel The Core (2003)
The Core is a sometimes humorous but mostly grinding motley-crew-saving-the-world movie. In this instance, the earth’s core has stopped rotating, which means 1) the protective electromagnetic field will fail, and 2) “everybody on earth will be dead within a year.” A grim prognosis and, not incidentally, a nifty set-up for the overwhelming darkness out of which those “truly heroic” characters might find their objects of humor.’ — pop matters


Trailer


Excerpt

 

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Roland Emmerich The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
‘Though the movie depicts an international cataclysm, the story mainly divides itself between the exploits of Jack, in Washington, D.C., and those of his son (Jake Gyllenhaal), who finds himself stranded inside Manhattan’s great Fifth Avenue library as conditions worsen and temperatures drop. Emmerich relies more on the personal in The Day After Tomorrow than he did in Independence Day, the main reason the new movie is weaker in comparison. Yet it’s difficult to see how he had much of a choice. In The Day After Tomorrow, there’s no villain, no enemy to fight and no obvious climax. When Jack decides he needs to go to New York to rescue his son, the plot turn may seem faintly absurd (what will he do once he gets there?), but Emmerich obviously needed a story. It’s good enough. Of course, Quaid acts as though the story is considerably better than good enough. He acts as though he were in Macbeth, playing Jack forcefully and with no irony. His straight-ahead seriousness may be slightly misplaced at times — the script sometimes fails him — but his commitment is still admirable, and the movie benefits. He’s a rock. So is Sela Ward, who approaches the role of his wife, an oncologist, with a similar, if less intense, gravity. Emmerich clearly did not want The Day After Tomorrow to be yet another smirky blockbuster.’ — SFGate


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Christoph Schrewe Post Impact (2004)
‘This movie was absolutely boring. I think the director was on a cheap budget trying to compete against the movie The Day After Tomorrow and failed miserably. the effects were horrible, comedical to be exact. The acting was poor, and the plot was too rushed and shallow. Not worth spending the money on to even rent it from a video store.’ — Mark Blah


Trailer

 

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Wolfgang Petersen Poseidon (2006)
‘During the age of disaster movies, before Cameron’s Folly, wasn’t there another ocean liner calamity spectacular that scored high at the box office? Yes, indeedy! It was The Poseidon Adventure (1972), in which a cruise ship was turned upside down by a freak wave and a plucky band of assorted “characters,” led by the intrepid Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), forced its way up through the debris of collapsed infrastructure, as water rushed in, to freedom. Finally, post-T, post-CGI, those imaginative Hollywood execs at head office decided on a bigger, better, bolder remake to suit the PlayStation generation. The result is tame, confusing – without a map of the ship, how does anyone know where they are? – unexciting, predictable and repetitive. Worst of all, you don’t care about the people. Character development has been ditched in favour of yet another scene of devastation and dumb courage.’ — Eye for Film

the entire film

 

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Robert Lee Disaster Zone: Volcano In New York (2006)
‘The core of the earth has risen to unfathomable temperatures. Oceans boil. Once inactive volcanoes now burst to life. Lava spews down city streets. The earth is a time bomb. In days it will explode. Our only hope is to expel enough gas and molten lava from the core to cool it down rapidly. And this means drilling to the center of the earth to create the largest volcano this planet has ever seen.’ — flashbackent


Trailer

 

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Roland Emmerich 2012 (2009)
‘It’s not so much that the Earth is destroyed, but that it’s done so thoroughly. 2012, the mother of all disaster movies (and the father, and the extended family) spends half an hour on ominous set-up scenes (scientists warn, strange events occur, prophets rant and of course a family is introduced) and then unleashes two hours of cataclysmic special events hammering the Earth relentlessly. This is fun. 2012 delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year. It even has real actors in it. Like all the best disaster movies, it’s funniest at its most hysterical. You think you’ve seen end-of-the-world movies? This one ends the world, stomps on it, grinds it up and spits it out.’ — Roger Ebert


Excerpt


FX highlights

 

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JK Youn Tidal Wave (2009)
‘At the least the cold-hearted corporates in Hollywood waited for over 60 years before turning the tragedy of the Titanic into a schmaltzy teen romance. No such respect for the 2004 tsunami victims is displayed by the South Korean film industry – five years on, the most devastating natural disaster to ever impact the region becomes fodder for soap-opera posturing and B-movie plotting. There are cheap thrills to be had from the spectacular destruction of the Pusan coastline, and a modicum of tension is generated in scenes involving the heroic actions of the leads. But with too many climaxes to enable suspended disbelief for 117 minutes, Haeundae embodies the worst aspects of the waning disaster-movie genre.’ — SBS Movies


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J.A. Bayona The Impossible (2012)
‘Remember when Clint Eastwood’s godawful Hereafter came out in 2010, and everyone said “Well, at least the tsunami sequence is good?” Well, now we can finally forget about that movie entirely thanks to The Impossible, in which Juan Antonio Bayona recreates the 2004 South Pacific tsunami with unforgettable, almost unbearable intensity. The true story that gives the film its narrative is an impressive tale of survival told with maximum schmaltz, and by focusing on a wealthy British family who suffered the tsunami because they were in Thailand on vacation, The Impossible comes dangerously close to minimizing the experience of millions of South Pacific islanders who lost everything in the disaster. But Bayona has picked a story with every emotional note to play, and he plucks those strings perfectly.’ — Cinema Blend


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Peter Sullivan Christmas Twister (2012)
Christmas Twister, also known as F6: Twister, is a 2012 action thriller that’s awfully light on action and thrills, but positively dripping with terrible acting and even worse special effects. But it does have one huge thing going for it: the (unintentionally) funniest script about bad weather ever written. The biggest name in its cast is Casper Van Dien, looking a bit more weathered than in his Starship Troopers heyday, but still square-jawed and believably heroic. (Look closely and you’ll also spot Steven Williams, forever 21 Jump Street’s Captain Fuller, but also so great on the last season of The Leftovers.) Second-billed is Richard Burgi, whose current gig is General Hospital, but in 2012 was double-hitting on Desperate Housewives and One Tree Hill.’ — gizmodo


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Ji-hoon Kim The Tower (2012)
‘If you’re thinking The Tower is indebted to The Towering Inferno you are quite right – director Kim has readily admitted that Inferno was one inspiration for this film, and some scenes echo of similar set pieces from the Steve McQueen classic. But The Tower ups the ante, taking the disastrous events even further with the entire building threatening to collapse – so when the fires are taken care of, our heroes are faced with a new round of problems. Towards the end, the film heads into 9/11 territory which makes for some surprisingly powerful moments. The Tower is certainly as cliché-ridden and formulaic as any other disaster movie, but it still manages to engage and exhilarate. The characters might be flimsy but the setup is handled lightly and economically, and it’s easy to take a liking to them. While the actors all give good performances – particularly Kyung-gu Sol (who also starred in Tidal Wave) as legendary firefighter Young-ki – the brilliant visual effects work is the true star of the film. It simply looks great, and there is not one dull moment as the characters have to face fires, indoor tsunamis, collapsing glass bridges and falling elevators. Also, here’s something as unusual as a disaster movie that manages to deliver a couple of scenes that are laugh-out loud funny – and intentionally so (!).’ — Disaster Movie World


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Jason Bourque Seattle Superstorm (2012)
‘When a meteorite crashes in Seattle severe storms start to occur, worse than the normal rain the city is known for. I am a sucker for disaster flicks and when talks of aliens are involved I instantly become glued to the screen. This is over the top in all of the right ways. The special effects can be a little goofy and the source of the storm is out there. If you are looking for a fun disaster flick, Seattle Superstorm can scratch that itch.’ — Rich Strahs


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Paul W.S. Anderson Pompeii (2014)
‘As much bloodletting as happens in this movie—and there’s quite a bit of it before the volcano action (presaged by a lot of building foundational cracks and such) gets underway—the movie is otherwise relentless in its wholesomeness. There’s more real depravity on the screen and in the soul of Cecil B. De Mille’s 1932 The Sign of the Cross than there is here. However, the action scenes are choice, and once the clouds of ash and shooting fire and churning seas start up, Pompeii achieves a momentum that most sensationalist studio fare can’t touch. By the end of the movie one senses that Anderson and company were going for a little bit more, particularly in the, you know, profundity department. But the civilians sitting a row ahead of me just giggled at the movie’s final shot, because, well I guess you’ve heard the saying “I wouldn’t be caught dead like that.” Tough crowd!’ — Glenn Kenny


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George Erschbamer Fire Twister (2015)
‘I really hope that who ever financed “Fire Twister” did so with an incredible tight grip on the purse strings as truth be told I can’t believe that after this movie was made they decided it was good enough to be released. Now I love watching bad disaster movies, there is nothing I enjoy more when I have either sat through some heavy movies or some genuinely under whelming movies to watch an entertainingly bad movie but “Fire Twister” sucks on a whole different level, a level I don’t think I have encountered before.’ — The Movie Scene

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Brad Peyton San Andreas (2015)
‘Kind of noteworthy, if not actually remarkable, then, is that the movie actually works as well as it does, offering up suspense set pieces that are genuinely suspenseful despite one’s security that everyone in the top-billed cast that we’re supposed to care about will be okay. The direction by Brad Peyton is particularly effective during the brisk scenes of disaster, from the felling of Hoover Dam to the snapping of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m not sure whether it was the editing or my own willing suspension of disbelief but the CGI-manufactured scenes of mass destruction are among the most realistic in this mode I’ve ever seen.’ — Glenn Kenny


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Dean Devlin Geostorm (2017)
‘For the first time since The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Hollywood finds the nerve to acknowledge climate change, though only in the most cowardly terms, hawking the pernicious fantasy of a global satellite system that can neutralize extreme weather events on earth. The problem isn’t your carbon-spewing SUV—it’s a villain inside the Democratic presidential administration who’s reprogrammed the system to obliterate enemies of the U.S. (Frenemies, anyway—Dubai and Hong Kong fall victim to calamitous storms, but not Tehran or Pyongyang.) Gerard Butler plays the swaggering bad-boy astronaut called out of retirement to blast off to the International Space Station and straighten things out. The script, every scene of which you’ve seen 100 times already, ends with a sermon urging us to unite and salvage the future, though this rings hollow coming at the end of a $120 million exercise in sci-fi denial.’ — Chicago Reader


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*

p.s. Hey. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Me too. Yeah, Zac and I will stay at my LA pad all during the getting ready to shoot phase of the film. It looks like we’ll be shooting it in a desert town near Joshua Tree, and that’s about 2 1/2-3 hours away, so we (and everyone) will be staying out there during the actual filming. Right, Switch as incentive. Like a pet that doesn’t need to be fed or taken for walks and that you have no emotional attachment to. Well, maybe a teeny emotional attachment. I’m Mr. Monotonous when it comes to eating, which kind of works well because going to restaurant feels like magic. Ha ha, I’m picturing love trying to mosh with Lana Del Rey fans and them looking very sad about that, which is a nice picture. Sorry to keep giving love such predictable gigs, but love making some rich woman Zac and I have to schmooze tonight to give us money for our film, which she’s about 90% for sure never going to do, give us money, G. ** CAUTIVOS, Hi. I mostly get them through highly targeted google searches. My French is way too terrible to read anything other than maybe the labels on jars in French. I think I can say that none of my novels have footnotes placed there by me, but, hm, maybe I’ll try that. And finally, on my end too, a big hug to you. ** Misanthrope, It was pleasantly doable. There’s a time to read and a time to … die? That didn’t pan out. Enjoy the grand but hopefully not grandiose weekend. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. There’s one house we’ve visited a few times and like and would be okay with using despite a few problems, but we’re going to see if there are other, possibly better options before we commit. Yes, we’ve had someone helping with the casting from the beginning, and she’s great. Everyone, Steve has reviewed Alice Diop’s SAINT OMER @ Artfuse aka here. ** Loser, Howdy! They instil the very same inclination me. High five. Yeah, it must be Wiley Wiggins that gives ‘Boys’ a cult following on TikTok because that film is such sentimental glop. Poor Lukas, although I bet he at least has more related things on TikTok than David Arquette, or I sure hope so. My friend the artist Richard Hawkins used some screengrabs of Wiley Wiggins, I think from ‘Dazed and Confused’, in a few of his artworks some years ago, and Wiggins totally flipped out and accused Richard of sexualising him and threatened to sue him, and I don’t know whatever became of that. Thank you for the youtube comp. I’ll go check it out as soon as I’m out of the p.s. And if you don’t mind emailing me those edits, that’d be awesome. Thank you so much! Everything good with you? ** _Black_Acrylic, I tried moshing, like, three times in the early punk days, and it never ended well, so I backed off. ** Bill, I’d hate to think I made you sad, Bill. Welcome home! And your brain seems like it’s working pretty okay. Yeah, I go to LA on Sunday, and then first thing Monday morning I have to go out location scouting in the desert which I’m told is more of a swamp at the moment. Prayers against excess turbulence. ** shadeoutMapes:v, Introductions are weird, yeah. You kind of have to turn off your dislike of standard fare interaction tropes for a second. Not a bad dream. I’d bribe my unpleasant imagination to have had it. I miss libraries. I can’t even remember the last time I was inside one. Weird. So, yeah, I feel your joy. That makes sense to me: that transposition. And the numbers becoming other than their simple selves. I do totally get what you mean, and I think my mind does that as well about other things pretty regularly, although I don’t pay attention to when that’s happening anymore. Seems like a really good thing. Wow, congrats on whatever you found out! Whatever makes you excited for the future is major. Great! Say what it is if ever want to say what it is. I hope your day continues your yesterday’s happiness. ** Nick., Hi, Nick.! Yeah, he was kind of saintly, my friend. I hope he turned out okay. I haven’t seen him since. Right, you get it, the dissociated but functional thing. So weird, isn’t it? I wish I could consciously make that happen whenever I wanted. I’m glad you’re realised now though. Ha ha, I think someone once told me your favorite joke. Works like a charm. My day was just full of the usual film-related stuff, I think, plus getting ready for the trip to LA. It’s a blur of blah in retrospect. But not bad blah. Three things? Wow, that’s a tough question. But since I don’t have a week to think about it, um, definitely a laptop with a magically incredible wifi connection, probably my friend Zac because we always seem to keep each other entertained (or maybe a clone of him since I wouldn’t want to put him through that), and a Mexican food restaurant, specifically this take-out Mexican place in LA called Poquito Mas. Okay, your turn: desert island, you, and three whats? Day of utter excellence to you! ** Okay. I think some of you know I have this somewhat inexplicable fondness/fetish for disaster films, and I indulged that fetish some years ago and made the post up there, which I am restoring today for reasons of mood, I guess. Get into it? See you tomorrow.

13 Comments

  1. CAUTIVOS

    Hi Dennis. Illustrative post. Perhaps it would be interesting, perhaps, to make a list of the films that have been a catastrophe at the box office, an economic disaster, although these are rather, more or less known (Cuthroat Island). Or a list of the worst movies in history in your opinion (Troll 2), or the worst performances by actresses and actors. Although searching imdb you can find it perfectly, it was just to give some idea. The worst novels in history (Danielle Steel) or the most difficult books to read or those that are not worth the effort? Hugs.

  2. Montse

    Hi, Dennis!

    (I posted my comment to late in yesterda’s post, so I’m pasting it here. :))

    The film stuff sounds so exciting. But you and Zac do so so much work! I imagine editing is key. It must be a very interesting process, but also exhausting. Now I’m thinking maybe I should wait until the screening for Halloween to visit Paris, haha. Yes! I’ll read ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ as soon as I can. A colleague of mine, Inga Pellisa, translated it into Spanish a few years ago, so I definitely should get to it. She’s a top translator. I’d love to be among one of these tough crowds! I’ve just sent you an email re: Boy Harsher. Safe travels to LA and a big hug to Zac!!

  3. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Ha! I shall try.

    Ugh, swallowed my espresso wrong this morning and came back up through my nose. Nasal coffee wash or enema or something. Ugh.

    Yeah, we’ll see what the weekend brings.

    The only good thing about not being able to read so much because I keep falling asleep is that I’ve been getting some good sleep. So there’s that.

    Excellent weekend to you, sir.

  4. Dominik

    Hi!!

    A few days ago, I watched a documentary about a volcano eruption (and its survivors), and I’ve been in the mood for disaster movies ever since. So, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. My weekend is on, haha. Thank you!

    That sounds great about the getting-ready-to-shoot phase – and shooting in a desert town sounds intriguing too, although I guess having the entire crew stay there has a lot of additional costs.

    Haha. Right. Exactly. A Switch sounds like a pretty comfortable, low-maintenance pet.

    Ah, shit. Okay. Just to make sure: love taking the place of the rich woman’s soul and asking, “How much do you need?” as soon as she sees you, Od. (For real, though – how did it go with her?)

  5. David Ehrenstein

    “The Towering Inferno” is my favorite.

  6. _Black_Acrylic

    The disaster movie is one genre of film that I’ve never got on board with. Guess what my next DVD rental is, though? The Wizard of Oz! I have never seen that film and feel as though an essential gap in my cinematic knowledge is due to be filled up.

  7. Cody Goodnight

    Hi Dennis.

    I have been reading your blog for about a year now, and I think it’s quite extraordinary. You certainly have an interesting collection of disaster movies here. Sadly, I haven’t seen any, save for only a few minutes of Twister when I was younger. The Poseidon Adventure looks engaging, and the others certainly look fun. Have a great weekend, Dennis.

  8. Bill

    Ha, I wouldn’t think a disaster movie would do well in our current environment. But you never know.

    I forgot Ridley Scott directed The White Squall. “Squall” probably referred secretly to shirtless whiteboys.

    Hope the trip prep is going smoothly, Dennis. The turbulence during my flight wasn’t bad at all, more like an annoying little nudge every 5 minutes or so. Just enough to keep me up.

    Bill

  9. Caesar

    Dear Dennis, like Montse, I posted my comment to late in yesterda’s post, so I’m pasting it here too. sorry u.u

    “Dear Dennis, I hope you are well today too. I am just responding as I have had a somewhat busy day regarding readings and appointments. Keep making fresh which is a blessing. Your new film sounds amazing! I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I’m a fan of haunted houses! There is always so much to tell there. Shirley Jackson taught me that at the end of the day, it’s the people who are haunted. I find it fascinating. What are your inspirations for this film? Always looking forward to hearing more haunted house stories! I look forward to seeing it!
    You’re a sweetheart, thanks for your good vibes! I didn’t know they greeted like that in France too. We don’t give two kisses, but one as a greeting and one as a farewell. We almost always hug, I love that.
    I feel I need to work more on my English and I hope I can do it. I have so much to read and see that is not in Spanish! As I write this to you it is 6 am. Summer insomnia again. I hope to adjust my biological clock soon (although I must admit that I enjoy being a nocturnal animal like when I was 15 years old and when I go back to work and college I won’t be able to do it anymore. I must take advantage of it). I listen to a podcast that talks about literature that talks about affected bodies, sick, experiences, fiction. If you can contribute works it would be great.
    I hope you are sleeping well. See you later. Greetings and kisses!!!
    PS: I started reading “Hogg” by Samuel Delany. It’s fucked up. I can’t believe he wrote this. Thanks for this!!!”

    About today’s post: I love disaster movies so much. One question, are these in a way apocalyptic movies? Or what’s the difference for you?
    I’m going to run off with my straight friend/platonic love now so that’s why the brevity of the talk sorry. Have a great day. Cheers and kisses x2

  10. Loser

    Hey, Dennis. Weirdly enough David Arquette does have a big following on social media as well, more than poor Lukas does, I’m guessing due to those “Scream” movies? IDK.
    I didn’t know that about Wiley Wiggins and Richard Hawkins. I was aware of the Richard Hawkins artwork of Wiley, and I always wondered how he felt about it. Welp, now I know, hahah. You got to be careful with the use of muses and real people in art, I guess. Real people and art is always a testy subject it seems. But I always thought the way you used real people in your work is great and interesting, way better than say a fanfic, although there’s probably great fanfiction out there.
    Jake Gyllenhaal IMO was very cute in “The Day After Tomorrow”. I don’t know if you were ever into Jake Gyllenhaal, but I sure was!
    I’m alright, thanks for asking. I’m heading to school soon, which I’m somewhat nervous about. Last time I went to school, before the break, I had a big mental breakdown that lead to me almost being wheeled out to a mental hospital. I’m OK now though. I think just too much was happening in my life, but now things have cooled down for a bit which is great.

    • shadeoutMapes:v

      bro I had one of those I hope ur good <33

  11. Nick.

    Hi! Good three things sounds like a fun island now. Mine would be a speaker that just plays all my favorite songs, this taco truck I really like and some guys to man it I guess they should be hot, and my phone and some service every now and then so I can browse the web and read books and stuff and if I get really bored talk to my friends maybe and eventually get a ride somewhere else(that’s technically three). I get it! sounds like good blah so I’m happy for you. And im glad you’ve heard it before happy it’s a mildly popular joke! Had a good day today so thanks, went to a gay bar just to hang out had a nice time! Not much on my end hope your well! New question dinner with anyone living or dead who with, what’s the meal, and what are you asking first?

  12. shadeoutMapes:v

    hi again I actually had a terrible dream last night to contrast from the beautiful one I had the previous night. The scary thing about my terrible dreams is that they always depict nefarious things in our world like war, massacres, school shootings etc. in this horribly visceral way that when I wake up, completely terrified, I can remember these things on a timeline like one could picture actual real-life calamities.
    Every time I wake up from these sorts of dreams, my head always goes straight to that Crystal Castles song Kerosene which I think you said was from the album you liked but I’m sorry I can’t remember. I think it’s terrifying how these dreams of lucid horror can frighten me so bad it makes me feel horrible for the people who physically have to see it. Anyways, I will spare details and further explanation just because I feel like I probably come off very sulky and miserable a lot but just to lighten the mood I once had a dream me and my friend were refugees watching our other friends get exploded by bombs and we laughed about that. They can be terrifying and unpleasantly realistic though.

    OH I FORGOT you said you got a switch; do you plan on getting animal crossing? what games do you have? I’ve always wanted to play animal crossing on my switch but honestly, I don’t use it that much! Silly question but have you heard about dead by daylight? I dont play a lot of games anymore besides the sims lol.

    Also, I liked the article on Hollis Frampton!! I love his short lemon movie (cried it was so moving) and I heard about him from a YouTube video on experimental films,
    Have you seen meshes of the afternoon? I really like that film.

    Oh, I’m very tired but I hope ur day goes well!! And hope or whatever that I have pleasant dreams of Jeff Mangum’s flowing hair instead of witnessing burning buildings!

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