Today! Because Billy is the Extreme –
Directed by Jan de Bont
Starring Bill Paxton (x5), Helen Hunt (x2), Philip Seymour Hoffman (x7), Cary Elwes (x6), Alan Ruck, Lois Smith, Jami Gertz, Sean Whalen, Joey Slotnick (x2), Scott Thomson, Todd Field, Zach Grenier (x4), Jeremy Davies, Wendle Josepher, Anthony Rapp (x2)
Oh what, are you too good to admit how much you enjoy the rip-roaring popcorn spectacle that is Twister? Not this guy! I know this movie is chock full of utter ridiculousness, from the hyper campy dialogue – “The finger of God”, “The cone is silent”, “The suck zone” – to the flying cows to the most peculiarly reinforced house in human history, that is able to roll into the roadway for their truck to drive straight through. I know! There’s tons of goofy nonsense in this movie! But here is a list of reasons why this movie works:
1) The flying cows – It was a great gag in the trailer and it’s a great gag in the movie. It is indicative of the overall tone – despite it being a full-on disaster movie, with many lives at peril and some deaths, it knows how silly it is, and embraces it.
2) “Jonas Miller. He went out and got him some corporate sponsors. He’s in it for the money, not the science.” – It’s such a ludicrous statement delivered by our hero Billy that we have to just shrug and accept this as the non-tornado related conflict of the film. Sure, Cary Elwes’ Jonas is a huge douche, but chasing tornadoes seems like a pretty technology-heavy enterprise – wouldn’t you want some corporate money? Have you seen the shitboxes you guys are driving? Plus, how are any of you making a living doing this if you aren’t in it for the money? Just living off the kindness of Aunt Meg killing her cows? Still, fuck that guy – he’s not in it for the science!
3) Philip Seymour Hoffman. He makes the whole thing work. Sure, it’s kept pretty light on team Jo and Bill, Team Dorothy, whatever – but Dusty is the pace-setter for everybody. Every line he has is kinda funny, and all his weird little quirks add up to the mental definition of the slightly-unhinged goofball you can imagine throwing it all away and tooling around the dullsville American middle west looking at storm clouds. He functions as the neat go-between for the team leaders Billy and Jo and the rest of the ragtag whack jobs along for the ride, too. Part of this is that he’s future Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, so he tends to stand out in that group, but it’s also his upstairs/downstairs appeal to everyone involved. And look, the rest of the gang is great too – Alan Ruck’s Rabbit being the obvious next best character – but PSH crushes Twister, here just slightly before he became a household name.
4) Film MVP Jami Gertz. Sure, she’s the gateway character for the rest of us, tagging along for the first time on a windy adventure, and it has bits of that fish-out-of-water humor that we’ve come to know and love so well over the years, but her work as Melissa also serves a bigger purpose in the later stretch of the film, as she abandons her role as the third side of the love triangle (Incidentally, do you think of people in “love triangles” as being the sides or the points? I go with sides). She’s a comic relief pain in the ass for almost the whole film, so naturally you assume Bill is gonna metaphorically chuck her into the twister before the end, but it’s Melissa who realizes this shit is not for her and bails. Twister! Loaded with depth and heart!
This is yet another rare film the wife and I are in total agreement about – she being quite possibly the world’s biggest Jan de Bont fan (well, of his directing efforts from 1994 to 1996, anyway). And come on, this movie is on AMC all the time – how are you escaping Twister, even if you wanted to? Has this movie just grown on everyone to the point that it is universally accepted as America’s favorite film? No? I mean, it was a solid big hit in the summer of ’96, and even though concocting a bullshit sequel would’ve been cake they thoughtfully never inflicted this on us. Jan de Bont cares about us!
Twister was nominated for Sound and Visual Effects Oscars, losing to The English Patient and Independence Day, but does go down in history as probably the second most famous tornado movie of all-time (Sorry about missing the list, Wizard of Oz!) and my personal top film from 1996 – one of the most represented years on this list. Way to go!
Plenty of deep advancing folks today, including Five-Timer Paxton (#296 Titanic, #306 Tombstone, #222 Aliens, #287 Stripes) and Six-Timer Elwes (#237 The Princess Bride, #351 Liar, Liar, #276 Hot Shots!, #350 Bram Stoker’s Dracula, #395 Robin Hood: Men in Tights), but PSH leads the way, becoming the tenth Seven-Timer, appearing in #315 The Master, #217 Magnolia, #186 Talented Mr. Ripley, #255 Red Dragon, #300 Punch Drunk Love, and #91 The Big Lebowski! We’ve had more than enough media in this post, thank you very much, but see above – Phil Hoffman is the spotlight winner.