My Dirty Little Secret

Okay, here's the thing, I have a degree in English, which means that I'm supposed to have all of the "high culture" tastes like Shakespeare and postmodernism and blah-de-blah-blah, and I do. Shakespeare's great, and postmodernism is fun, and, most of the time great literature is great for a reason, you know?

But it can't be Shakespeare all the time, and some of the time when I'm not reading Shakespeare, I'm watching disaster movies. I love them. All of them, even the really bad ones, like "When Weather Attacks" (aka "The Day After Tomorrow") and "The Core" (which is super crappy). "Volcano" and its superior but lesser known competitor "Dante's Peak." "Armageddon" and its inferior and lesser known competitor "Deep Impact." "Volcano," "Twister," "Avalanche." Classics like "The Towering Inferno" and "The Poseidon Adventure," and remakes of classics, like "Poseidon" (which was better than people say it is).

I can't explain why I enjoy these movies, since most of them are pretty lame and some of them are completely stupid (the aforementioned "When Weather Attacks," which I am watching RIGHT NOW, is one such super-lame one, although it is redeemed to a small degree by the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal. A very small degree, especially after the WOLVES attack. No, I'm not kidding.)

My favorite part of these movies is the first half hour to forty-five minutes, which I'm sure has an official movie name, but which I call the set-up. You know the part - where there's some brainy scientist, or engineer, or airplane pilot, or something, who figures out what's happening before anyone else does and has to explain it to people so that they realise that THE ENTIRE WORLD IS AT STAKE!!! A particularly fine example of this character is Anne Heche in the simply-named "Volcano." She plays a geologist, and although most of the stuff she says about volcanos and lava in the movie is so wrong a fifth grader would laugh, she's still surprisingly convincing as a scientist.

And I love when a new disaster movie comes out and real scientists find it necessary to make announcements about how "that's only a movie. Don't believe everything you see." In "Armageddon," for example, a bunch of miners are sent into space on two space shuttles to drill into the killer asteroid and blow it up with nuclear weapons. Okay, fine, willing suspension of disbelief, right? But because NASA was featured so prominently in the film, NASA felt it necessary to come out with a statement basically saying "Armageddon is a cool movie and all, but, um...we can't do that, just so you know." Which I suppose I appreciate, but made NASA look endearingly clueless. Yes, NASA, we know you can't fly to an asteroid and plant a nuclear bomb. It's okay.

I also love the requisite scenes of famous landmarks blowing up, made popular by the disaster/alien film "Independence Day," a cheestastic delight. In that movie, the White House and certain other landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty, get blown up by aliens in a very dramatic series of scenes. It was pretty cool, but I have to say that if I were an alien invader, I would not find it necessary to blow up the Statue of Liberty. It's a cool statue and all, but not really a strategic target, hmm? Anyway, since then, every disaster movie seems to have a bunch of landmarks blowing up, but since ID4 took the really good one (the White House) the rest of the movies are making due with others. "The Core" blows up the Coliseum in Rome, for example. And "When Weather Attacks" annihilates the HOLLYWOOD sign. And "Volcano" goes for most Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, which is famous and all, but really ain't White House level.

So why do I like these ultimately predictable and usually cheesy movies? I don't know. I could go with a "order-chaos-order" theory, along the lines of the theoretical underpinnings of horror movies, although disaster movies are very rarely actually scary or even suspenseful. Maybe it's just watching famous things blow up. Maybe it's Jake Gyllenhaal. Whatever it is, you can bet if a movie is made about a flood or a hurricane or a ship going down or a big building on fire, I'm totally there, maybe even on opening night.

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