Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Have A Weakness And It Goes By The Name Of Twister


I love the movie Twister.

There you go. I have exposed my soft underbelly. Go ahead and shoot your arrows now.

See, I live in the Midwest. Some might call where I live "tornado alley." I don't find tornadoes scary as much as I do fascinating. The idea that absolute horror can be created out of relatively nothing is something I find very interesting. And in return, tornadoes have always found me in interesting positions. When I was younger, I was called out of a movie theater several times because a tornado was reported just blocks away. We ended up watching the rest of the movie standing at the back of the theater. While waiting for my plane to arrive and whisk me away to Las Vegas, airport security announced that everyone needed to proceed to the basement parking garage. This was shortly after 9/11, so everyone decided to ignore the 70 mph winds and green skies outside, and wonder if it was a terrorist attack. And only a few years ago, I gave a presentation in a baseball suite while funnel clouds circled all around me. While the weatherman pointed out the clouds on TV, we could easily see them in real life across the stadium.

It's about this time every year that tornadoes show their ugly faces. In tornado warnings and tornado watches (I never remember which one is more serious.) Favorite TV shows are interrupted without warning and sometimes you have to open your front door and listen for the sirens because they're old and don't make the same blare they once did. And it's about this time every year that my wife and I watch Twister, and do so with extreme glee.

So let's explore the possible reasons why I might love this film. First, let's start with the story. The entire movie is centered around a group of people who run towards tornadoes while everyone else is running away. What's not to love about that? This is like the tornado marines. The few. The proud. The tornado marines.

There's the cast. It really is a brilliant cast, made up of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Todd Field and Jeremy Davies all in secondary roles. Unfortunately, they can't help that they're badly written. There's a reason why you haven't seen Hoffman reprise this "I'm the wacky comedy relief that serves no other purpose than to be the wacky comedy relief" role again.

Then there are the tornadoes themselves. There's the shy F2, the tenacious F3, the obnoxious F4 and the truly outrageous F5. They are huge and awesome, especially when they're tearing through drive-in theater screens showing The Shining.

But truth to tell, none of these reasons are really why I love this film. When my wife and I first saw Twister, it was the Spring of 1996. As we left the movie, we rushed home to our apartment because there were reports of tornadoes in the area. It was as if Jan DeBont paid millions for the best movie hype experience ever. Of course we lived on the fifth floor of an all brick building that used to be a box warehouse, so our fear/excitement subsided once we got home. But our entire experience was somehow enhanced by the thought of real-life tornadoes closing in all around. It would be like walking out of a screening of Terminator 2 and discovering that the world had indeed been taken over by machines in the past two hours. It was a perfect mix of fantasy and reality.

One wonders if there weren't tornadoes that night, would I still have enjoyed the film as much. As a film by itself, it certainly doesn't possess the characteristics that would keep it in constant rotation. It may be for no other reason than everytime I watch Twister it's like remembering every wacky encounter I've ever had with a tornado. Including one wonderful date-night with my wife.

23 comments:

Burbanked said...

Warning = more serious. It means the actual funnel clouds have touched down. I was terrified of these as a kid and distinctly remember the difference.

I love when movies hold a special place in our memories because of the experience we retain of their first viewing. FRIGHT NIGHT is like that for me, and the affection that those feelings create is undeniable. It matters not a whit of the movie's quality or place in cinematic history, only that the memory belongs to us.

I'll leave my comment pretty much there, and forget for the moment that we're talking about TWISTER. I mean, good God man. Has there ever been another PG-ish movie in which the film's really rather harmless and not even all that mean antagonist is HORRIBLY KILLED BY HAVING A MASSIVE OBJECT CRUELLY STABBED THROUGH HIS CHEST?

PIPER said...

Burbanked,

Where'd you live that you had to worry about Tornadoes?

And you make a good point about the killing. Why'd they have to put Elwes down like that? Sure the guy was an asshole, but not that big of an asshole.

Burbanked said...

The disproportionately evil dispatching of Elwes is only one of the bizarrely unmotivated moments in that movie, but it's certainly the most memorable.

I grew up in Ashtabula OH, two blocks from Lake Erie. We didn't have serious tornadoes, but we did experience watches and warnings and tornado drills at school. Maybe that's why I grew up so scared of them - because the anticipation and growing dread created by the schools and local radio stations never had a payoff.

Greg said...

Twister blows.

Ha, ha. Get it? It blows. Or perhaps, since it's a vortex I should say, "it sucks."

Ha, ha. Get it again? Get it?

Oh, I am too funny. Anyway, I like so many bad movies (and not the so bad they're good kind, just bad) I would never give anyone a hard time for liking a clunker. Besides, you have to love the fact that strapped down or not, an F5 tornado moving across you would tear you to pieces. That's kind of how houses and buildings get torn to pieces when tornados move across them. See, they're like spinning brick walls. And yet in the movie, as long as you're strapped down, you're fine. I mean, it's amazing that they show tornados tearing things up but when it comes to our two heroes, why they pass right through it's outer walls like it was harmless smoke. Hey, they're strapped down, they can't possibly be hurt now.

And Cary Elwes simply rocks in the movie. They really needed to give him a moustache to curl and a big black hat because that's how he played it. Which I loved.

PIPER said...

Burbanked,

I spent a lot of my childhood the same as you. Only it was the fact that nothing really materialized from all the warnings that caused me to not really be scared of them.

My mother (who I still believe is half Indian due to her strange spirituality) always said we (Lincoln, NE) would never be hit by a tornado because we were settled on salt deposits or some whatnot. Anyway, it worked for me.

Greg,

Your wit knows no bounds.

I too have a lot of terrible movies that I love because they're so bad they actually complete the spectrum of bypassing suck to being good again.

And you can't tell me that a simple horse belt (is that what they used to strap themselves in?) wouldn't save them. That shit was real.

Moviezzz said...

I saw the title of this post pop up in my Google Reader.

I thought it was going to be about the board game.

PIPER said...

Moviezzz,

Now that's a post worth reading. My deep, deep love of the game of Twister.

I'm sure if someone watched me play Twister it would be worth writing about.

Greg said...

I'm sure if someone watched me play Twister it would be worth writing about....

Can we please never, ever, EVER see a movie of that? Thank you.

PIPER said...

Oh, now it's on.

Piper Playing Twister. The new short film that's making waves across the world.

3rdmartini said...

My old boss from the agency in Oklahoma City was an extra in the drive-in scene. He actually got a bit of screen time and was the last person you see running into the mechanic's shop right before everything goes to shit. He gave the tornado the "zoinks!" face. Pure ham.

Awesomeallday said...

My favorite part is when they go running for cover in end up in a barn full of torture devices and or butcher's equipment... HAHA wtf?! It's like ed gein's garage or something.

Girodet said...

I loved that movie. It was a fun popcorn movie and funny and even sentimental. Yeah it stretched the truth a bit but was still enjoyable. I was annoyed at the extent people were insulting it. Then May 3, 1999 happened in Oklahoma, where I reside and where I resided when watching that movie. I wanted to call up all the people that gave me grief about that movie and give them what for. After 1999, I watched the movie again and could not stop crying. By the way, the F5 in Moore, Oklahoma was five miles from my apartment.

JA said...

I have a weakness for all disaster movies, but Twister holds a special place in my heart and I don't have any logical excuses like you do, Pier. I just love it and have watched it a hundred times. It's definitely one of the movies I'll always watch for a bit if it's on the teevee.

Have you ever ridden the ride at Universal Studios? Well it's not really a ride, you just walk through some damage and then they make this fake tornado attack you and throw all this shit around a soundstage. But the best part is the taped introduction by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton that so ridiculously self-serious it's camp gold. My best friend and I still have some entirely inside jokes about it that I could share but wouldn't make anyone laugh but us that we fling at each other and it's been 8 years or so since we were there.

This and Dante's Peak, man. My weaknesses.

PIPER said...

Girodet,

Good Lord, that's close.

Yeah, Oklahoma is way more "tornado alley" then Kansas City or Lincoln.

It was in Oklahoma City where I watched all the funnel clouds from the baseball suite. I was presenting some work while doing it. Good times.

I also had not a tornado, but a micro-burst come down my street while in Lincoln. It uprooted a gigantic tree hundreds of years old. Micro-burst my ass. That shit was a tornado.

PIPER said...

JA,

I think the Universal thing would freak me out. I have a fear of "staged" things. It's why Disney continues to fascinate/horrify me with all their animatronics.

Bill Paxton when he's not playing some form of Chet is not really good. But I will say he's good in Big Love.

Girodet said...

Had to Google the F5 to make sure I wasn't exaggerating. It was 15 miles. Still scary! I now take those terribly excited weathermen seriously. Looking forward to the occasions I will be hiding in my closet this summer...not!

PIPER said...

I'm going to start watching movies about flooding. I've taken a lot of water in my basement these past few days. I think I dread rain more than I do tornadoes.

Coop said...

It sure was the F/X tits when it came out, but my favorite part was the Van Halen song that played when they started chasing the big-assed tornado. That and flying cows.

Fitzy said...

Twister was fun. My favorite part was watching the cows fly by in one scene. :)
--Fitz

J.D. said...

Yeah, TWISTER is a guilty pleasure for me as well. I can't believe I actually paid to see it in the theater!

My fave scene is actually the one where Paxton and his crew have dinner at Aunt Meg's house and Hoffman's character tells the wild story about Paxton's character ("The EXTREME!"). There is some nice interaction between everyone and the camaraderie actually feels genuine, for a change. Makes me wonder if some of that scene was improv'd?

PIPER said...

If only they could harness the power of a tornado and use that to move cows across the country. What would cowboys do?

Moviezzz said...

INT PIPER'S BASEMENT EVENING

Piper and a group of friends are relaxing, having had a few too many drinks.

PIPER

I've got a wacky idea. Why don't I get out the ol' TWISTER game.

BURBANKED

Oh man, that would so rock! I love Twister!!

CUT TO: Midgame. Piper and pals are drunkenly fumbling around the board.

Piper looks into the corner of the basement.

It is a dark corner, but he notices something.

PIPER

Wait a minute. What's that?

BURBANKED

You got rats again?

PIPER

No. It's something else.

Piper walks closer. And closer. And closer.

PIPER

Oh dear God!! It's WATER!!! THE BASEMENT IS FLOODING!!!!!

The gang stumbles to the staircase, running to the top of the stairs.

BURBANKED

Oh no Piper! The door is looked from the outside!!! What are we going to do? The water is seeping in, the Twister board is getting damp, and we are going to be stuck down here!!

COMING THIS SUMMER.

PIPER said...

Piper: Quick, run from that water!

Anyone: That slow creeping water?

Piper: Run. Oh, the horror, the horror.

Anyone: Water can't hurt you.

Piper: Avert your eyes. It's evil. Get away!

Anyone: I'm leaving now.

Piper: But what about our Twister?

Anyone: See Ya.