Wednesday, March 5

Movies I will henceforth avoid..despite making the cut

I decided to watch The Day After because Blockbuster told me I might enjoy it based up on my rental history. I was kind of proud that even my online rental service recognized that my mild obsession with disaster movies and their ilk. Since it was a made for TV movie with Jason Robards (Jr.) I figured that it would be a great combination of good actors stuck in a bad movie. I should have read the review more carefully, namely the part that said: "At the end of the broadcast, many stations offered teams of counselors staffing 800 telephone numbers to help distraught viewers calm down."
The Day After is set in the Midwest, mostly the Kansas City area. I currently live in St Louis about 4 hours east of Kansas City, MO. I should have immediately turned off the movie when I realized that they were about to bomb my part of the country. Instead, I kept watching. The film follows a few key characters as they realize that nuclear war seems imminent. Some of the key players include: the Dahlberg, a student named Steve, and Jason Robards playing a doctor. The Daylbergs live on a farm and sets up a fallout shelter in their basement. Stever miraculously survives the bombs and eventually ends up joining the Dahlberg's in their underground room. Jason Robards Jr. is a doctor who remains at his university hospital (instead of returning home to his family) as it is besieged with fallout survivors and those who hid during the attacks. The portrayal of the attacks themselves are surprisingly intense and graphic--especially since made for TV movies usually include stock footage and something clearly made on a home computer, until you realize that they used actual footage from testing done by the US government. With the exception of the bomb footage, the first part of the movie is surprisingly dry. Not quite a snoozefest, but definitely pretty low key for a disaster movie.
The second part of the film, however, follows the survivors after the bombs have been dropped and the fallout has begun to spread. Thanks to Blockbuster's recommendation and The Day After's made-for-TV status I was expecting some post-apocalyptic sex, drugs, and rock and roll. No sex, no rock and roll, and the only drugs shown are given to those suffering from radiation poisoning--which the film shows plenty of in GRAPHIC detail. The nice farming family who hid in their basement fallout shelter--well their daughter Denise goes crazy and frolics in a field of dead animals. She then becomes sick from the radiation and has to be carted off to the hospital by their survivor friend Steve, (with whom I pegged as her end of the world sex buddy) and bomb-blind brother. Jason Robards Jr. goes a little crazy too from radiation sickness and leaves the hospital to return to his hometown and mourn in the ashes for his wife and son. Oh, and his hospital is both filled and surrounded by people sick and dying from radiation. My favorite scene though, was probably when some government officials are trying to explain to the remaining farmers how to remove the layers of topsoil so they won't contaminate the new plants. The farmers point out that they have acres and acres of contaminated soil and nowhere to put it.. so farming is pretty much a wash post-bombing too.
By the end of the film I was almost glad that most of the main characters were dead or dying, just so I could turn the damn thing off. If I had read that Blockbuster review more carefully I would have known that the movie was made to scare the crap out of Americans and implore them and the government to prevent this type of wide-scale disaster from occurring. Thanks to some recent news about North Korea and Iran, I found myself nervously researching how to survive a nuclear attack as soon as I turned off the TV. Apparently you can turn any basement space into a relatively safe fallout shelter with a little preparation. I have now decided thanks to this movie that I will never be able to live in a building without a basement again! I might also have to start stocking up on bottled water, batteries and canned food just in case. Thanks to this lovely bout of movie induced paranoia I have also decided that:

1) Movies created SPECIFICALLY to scare people will be avoided. I am apparently really susceptible to scare tactics and do not want to spend any more time researching what to do if a bomb drops, a tidal wave is about to cover the entire east coast etc. ONLY ridiculous funny disaster movies will be allowed.

2) If a movie is not funny or ridiculous, it will only be allowed if it has legit actors and won some type of academy award. This caveat is in place almost solely because I know that Airport is next up on my list. I don't know if this type of movie is less likely to cause nightmare or paranoia, but at least it won't be a waste of 2 hours.

3)Movies like this scare me so much that I forget to write about all the fun feminist stuff that goes along with disaster movies. Must avoid such scariness in the future if my blog is to survive as a hybrid feminist interest/disaster movie forum!

4) Nuclear disaster movies will be avoided for a few weeks. Unfortunately, this means I can't watch the current season of Jericho until I calm down. Luckily, I can watch the current Terminator TV series because the show takes place pre-bombings!