Thursday, 18 February 2016

Disaster films, revisited

Long-suffering readers of my blog may well remember that in 2013 I attempted to watch the 100 top-rated disaster films on IMDb.com. The attempt, as predicted by all, was unsuccessful. Why should this have been?

Well, the reasons were varied. Firstly, I am flaky. Disgracefully so. The only defence I can present is that I am not being paid to write this any more than you are to read it. Maybe I should be. You definitely should be.

Secondly, watching disaster films is somewhat emotionally draining and dislocating. At best, that is. At worst it is fully traumatic, an invitation to an entirely self-inflicted pathology that could colour my remaining days. Fortunately, the intervening three years have rendered this less of an issue. I am now three years older and hopefully three years more emotionally mature. Additionally, society has since developed in such a way that chain-watching apocalyptic fiction is now no more chastening than watching the news.

Thirdly and most painfully for me to admit, my initial list and the model for its creation were shoddy. I am flabbergasted that past me would have allowed such a slipshod list into the public domain. There were countless exclusions and inclusions blatantly contrary to the qualifying criteria.



What has changed is that, over the past few weeks, I have found myself obsessively watching disaster movies once again, although this time through my own stupid free will rather than my own stupid self-discipline. I quickly realised that I had, quite unwittingly, managed to tick off a further seven of the films on my totally lousy and shameful original list.

The upshot of all this is that I am going to revive the project, but with some new rules which will hopefully see it able to thrive and - most important of all - a new list which may be amended and added to on the fly. What will any of us learn? Nothing. Which was my intention all along.

What qualifies a film for inclusion? Well, there are only reasonably mild changes from my original framework but I think they will be significant. My old first rule was "a disaster must happen in your disaster movie". A good start you'd think, but it in fact excluded a surprising number of titles. So my new rule number 1 is "A disaster must happen, be anticipated or narrowly be averted in your disaster movie".

Rule two remains unchanged. "A disaster must be the only reason for making your movie". Mundanity is the lifeblood of the disaster film. The everyday being disrupted is central. How else will your characters go about learning and growing, if not from beneath a fallen tree or stuck inside a volcano with an atomic bomb?

Rules 3 and 4 were more problematic. Inevitable and unavoidable disasters will now be included, so long as they fulfil the other existing criteria. Additionally, rule 4 will also now be disregarded. Some of the best films in the world require all of the characters being dead at the end of it. Many films that otherwise fall flat could be vastly improved by it. Food for thought for all you aspiring screenwriters out there.

Rule 5 (now Rule 3 thanks to my sharky streamlining) remains - "Your disaster must not be fanciful" - although in a reworded form and including this fancy diagram to give additional detail of exactly what I mean by it.

As promised, here is a helpful diagram

If you feel short-changed by this new truncated list, I may be able to placate you with an additional new Rule 4: "Your movie must be feature length, but films of any sub-genre are permissible as are made-for-TV movies". I love TV movies. Sequels and films dealing with the same historical disaster are now also allowed.

All of this meandering, tweaking and procrastination leads me to this: the reformed disaster film list. May god have mercy on all of our souls.

2012 (2009)
A Night To Remember (1958)
Airplane! (1980)
Airport (1970)
Airport 1975 (1974)
Airport '77 (1977)
Alive (1993)
Armageddon (1998)
Asteroid (1997)
Atomic Train (1998)
Atomic Twister (2002)
Avalanche (1978)
Blindness (2008)
By Dawn's Early Light (1990)
Contagion (2011)
Countdown To Looking Glass (1984)
Dante's Peak (1997)
Deep Impact (1998)
Dr. Strangelove (Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) (1963)
Earthquake (1974)
Ebola Syndrome (1996)
Epidemic (1987)
Fail Safe (1964)
Fire! (1977)
Flight 90: Disaster On The Potomac (1984)
Flood (1976)
Flood (2007)
Heatwave (1974)
Hurricane (1979)
Krakatoa, East of Java (1968)
Meteor (1979)
Miracle Mile (1988)
Night of the Comet (1984)
Night of the Twisters (1996)
On The Beach (1959)
Outbreak (1995)
Panic In Year Zero! (1962)
Right At Your Door (2006)
Rollercoaster (1977)
Special Bulletin (1983)
The Big Bus (1976)
The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
The Concorde... Airport '79 (1979)
The Day After (1983)
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)
The Day The Sky Exploded (1958)
The Great Los Angeles Eathquake (1990)
The Hindenburg (1975)
The Last Voyage (1960)
The Night The World Exploded (1957)
The Perfect Storm (2000)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
The Swarm (1978)
The Towering Inferno (1974)
This Is Not A Test (1962)
Threads (1984)
Testament (1983)
Titanic (1998)
Tornado (1996)
Twister (1996)
United 93 (2006)
Variola Vera (1982)
Virus (1980)
Volcano (1997)
When The Wind Blows (1986)
When Time Ran Out (1980)
Where Have All The People Gone? (1974)
World Trade Center (2006)
Zero Hour! (1957)

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