Film Muse: Twister (1996)

Twister is probably that movie your parents have on VHS, tucked away in a random box somewhere in your basement. The cover is a landscape shot of a yellow sky, a black ominous tornado slashing through the center. Our copy's sleeve deteriorated years ago, now it's in a hardshell case with the ripped title Scotch taped on the side for easy viewing. It was a relic in our family. When I say that Twister changed my life please do not think I'm being melodramatic: because it did indeed change my life. 

Twister (1996) directed by Jan de Bont embodies the Americana way of life at its ultimate peak. Long time storm chasers (and lovers) Jo and Bill try to perfect a storm device called Dorothy (modeled after real-life device TOTO in the 1980s) to collect data from the inside of a tornado's vortex. The game plan is to set up Dorothy, a mechanic basin filled with hundreds of tiny ball sensors, and then drive as close as humanly possible towards a tornado to release said sensors. With the data collected from inside the tornado's vortex, the storm chasers can better understand the elusive twisters and provide earlier warning systems to help save lives. And of course, it wouldn't be a Hollywood film without the impending rivalry of another (bougier) storm chaser crew, a gang of kooky storm chasers (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck), a sizzling romance, and an eventual heartbreak. 

I first saw this film when I was around six years old. I'd crawl into our dark family living room and hide underneath a blanket during the opening scene. As scary as it was, I couldn't help but be mesmerised. It was probably the ever flowing adrenaline that De Bont pumps into the film, I mean, the guy made Speed (1994). Van Halen rips through the VHS tape and bleeds red white and blue onto the T.V. screen. Storm trucks race down country roads like stallions going to war. You can almost feel the electricity in the air. The characters are full of try-hard-or-die-trying enthusiasm, some searching for more than just tornado data. This is America. This is the Midwest. This is what I think of when I remember my childhood in the 90's. 

For years after this film I was convinced that I wanted to become a meteorologist. No, not to be a T.V. anchor (lame- ZERO credibility), but to chase tornados across the good ole U.S.A. BABY! It wasn't until early high school that I realized meteorology is more about calculus and psychics, which both happen to be the bane of my existence. It took me a while to realize that it wasn't meteorology that I wanted to learn about- it was filmmaking. That's right folks, Twister was the first movie that pushed me into my film obsession.

Jo (Helen Hunt) is sort of the ultimate babe, let's get real. Every time I watch this movie I have a sudden urge to fish through my wardrobe for cargo pants. And denim. Denim on denim. I think her character shows the ultimate resilience. A stubborn cookie in a testosterone tainted wolf pack is always empowering to watch. Yet the viewer connects with Jo almost right away. She tries to act aloof when Bill needs her to sign the last divorce papers so he can marry his new fiance. He seems like a square at first until the viewer realizes how perfect they are for each other. For being such a brutal force of nature, Jo is clearly a human being. It is revealed later in the film that she is the only one of the storm chasers to ever see (and survive) an F5 tornado. That F5 tornado took her father's life and consequently sparked her dire urgency to understand how and why tornados exist.

Given that this film was created in 1996, I have to say the special effects were (and still are) on point. The monster of the film is shown in the Oklahoma skies ("greenage"), ominous wind, and the silent rustles of the too quiet country side. The tornado themselves aren't even corny to watch, whipping in and out of the frame. The music score also acts as a dual indicator of the villain in the sky - low rumbles, the sound of metal eerily sliding against one another. Even with new advances in special effects, Twister is the only film to this day that repeatedly gives me chills.  

I've been thinking about Philip Seymour Hoffman in this film a lot lately because of his passing. Not so much in a sad way. I feel happy for him. I mean, how fun would it be to film a movie about chasing tornados with some of the coolest guys and girls out there (Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Helen Hunt)? He got to wear awesome flannels, goof around, and listen to Eric Clapton on his van T.V. Maybe that's just my false nostalgia creeping up, but he seemed like the happiest dude in the film.  He seemed so genuine.  

Of course there are issues with this film. First of all - they treat Jami Gertz's character Dr. Melissa Reeves like crap. It's the classic Science vs. Liberal Arts banter and she happens to be the perfect scapegoat. She is Bill's brand new fiance, a reproductive therapist ("She didn't marry you for your penis! Okay, she didn't only marry your penis") who clearly doesn't know anything about Bill and his psychotic tornado chasing past. She is the sweetest southern belle dressed in an all white pantsuit (slay mama) that willingly drives her nice ass red Dodge Ram into deadly tornados, all while tending to her borderline breakdown therapy patients on her snazzy cellular phone. She pretty much gets tossed around the whole movie, but acts as a rational character for the audience to touch base with. She is sort of my favorite, to be honest.

And then you have the whole "tornado thriller" aspect. I mean, I was going to write this post a couple weeks ago until I remembered the tornado in Kentucky that killed 25 people during this time last year in 2013. Is it right to write a blog post about how much I "love" tornado movies - even though I've never even seen a tornado? Let alone been in one? This talk of glamorization could be applied to so many things in the media, but it becomes extremely relevant in Twister. You have these fanatics that devote their lives to the thrill of the chase, only coming to their senses with the trauma when it hits a little too close to home. I see that the film touches on this in a detached sort of way, but it still seems a bit Hollywood of them. But at the same time, is it worth making these type of movies if they bring people together? If they spark feelings of gratitude for living a safe life? If they remind humans of their insignificance compared to nature, or if they bring pride to the homelands?

I mean - Gummo (Harmony Korine) is a fucked up movie - not because of the characters themselves so much, because there are so many people like that in the U.S.A., but because they all function so apathetically after a devastating tornado tore their town apart. Killed their people. Isn't that the scariest part of Gummo anyways? That they just go on with life? I mean, people like to watch Gummo and Harmony Korine's work in general because it is some of the rawest/crudest well known alt. films, but his work is more than just shock value. Right? Aren't we all on the same boat? You get something from Korine's work - don't you? Or do you think Korine is just a scumbag who profits off of town weirdos and recently had a little too much money on his hands (Spring Breakers)?

Ethics. I think it's something worth pondering on. 

Twister is everything to me. It embodies the sense of Americana that I remember and the Americana that yearn for today. This was the golden age of dreams, I like to believe anyways. The pursuit of happiness, the reverie of nature, and the feeling of freedom. I see my Uncles in this movie - niche jokesters in their sweaty prime. I see women that I looked up to as a kid, Jo for her resilience and "tom boy" way of life - and Jami for her humility and grace. I see the American Midwest (the butt of all terrible U.S.A. jokes) in its best and glorious light. I see a good time, a simpler time.

It's the wonder of nature, baby.

Lauren Rose
Curbside Fashion


She Found Her Courage In A Change Of Scene

There goes another year.

I've been thinking about making another post like this on my blog. Recently, I was interviewed for The Wake magazine which you can see here. We talked about Youtube, having an online persona, and what happens when you're given an opportunity that just doesn't sit quite right with you. 

Apart from awkwardly dodging stray copies lying face up on dining hall tables (....I didn't know I'd be on the front cover) this whole process has been pretty enlightening. For a while I was in a lull about Youtube and how it has affected me. It is crazy how saturated my life has been with the internet these past few years, and now that I finally have some perspective everything is coming a bit full circle. 

Firstly, I want to give a shout to this past academic school year: it's been real. It sounds sort of shitty to say, but I felt like I totally regressed freshmen year of college. I guess that happens when your whole life changes. All of those anxieties I stomped out by senior year of high school came festering back. I mean, I'm not going to throw myself under the bus. I had some good friendships, good experiences. But MAN, does it get better. Way better. 

This year I found my voice again. I remember when I first starting getting into feminism it was all so frustrating. Every advertisement I saw, song I heard, and interaction on the street I had felt like a personal attack on my presence. Our presence. I kept on wishing that I could take it all back and be  blind to all the shit that was happening in the world, but it doesn't work that way.

I was frustrated that my Youtube hobby seemed shallow to some people. I was frustrated that my friends were angry with me when I didn't show interest in their miso. douchebag friends (sorry mom if you're reading this). I was frustrated that one of my closest friendships turned out to be hollower than I thought, and I was frustrated for not being able to articulate how I felt.

This year I sunk myself into activism. I gotta let you all know: internet activism is valid, but you gotta try out the real world scene too. This spring we hosted Take Back The Night which is a march/vigil surrounding the awareness of sexual violence.  I go to college in a city and it's not uncommon for crime to happen, but I was livid this past year when multiple girls were sexually assaulted/raped near the street corners that I walk past everyday. I was disgusted how these atrocious acts were being lumped with other email crime reports of bougie kids getting their iPhones stolen while in a drunken stupor at 3 am. 

But it wasn't just that. I felt sick about how many people I knew, including myself, that suffered from unreported sexual violence/attempted sexual assault from people in their lives. 
It was fucked up. It was scary.

Take Back The Night was incredible. We had slam poets, performance artists, and an amazing MC that provided inclusivity and connectivity for the crowd.  We had a huge march into Dinkytown, right after the White House released a statement about sexual assault on college campuses. I guess the part that got me was the end of the night when we came back for our candle light vigil. One by one people went to the microphone and told their stories of sexual violence. Seeing my friends bravely tell their stories literally made me weep. There were so many times in my life when I felt powerless and frozen, and to see these people break that barrier was intense.

Then there was film. I finally got around to building up my confidence to start creating art again. I had a dry spell and missed the type of thinking you were allowed to do in art classes. I met some great teachers that let me dive into my interests without judgement, while still teaching me new ways to approach my material and utilize new tools. Smoke breaks were probably the best part of class - talking about Trash Humpers. I even liked the pretentious film kids, they had spunk.

So I started taking my tape camcorder to parties and other places, filming anything and everything. It was very American Beauty (if you ever see me filming a plastic bag - STOP ME). I also ended up doing some outside work for my friend's label (see here). We did a show at First Ave in downtown Minneapolis,where I got to do live projections/mix some of my own footage to an awesome electronic  set. Stay tuned for more of that. 

Then there were my friends. Dear lord, please bless my crew. They have become family. They got me up and out, trying new things, and helped me overcome some of my old stuff. Long nights turned into sleepovers and Brueggers Bagels in the morning. Disco Naps were a norm.

It all was so easy. I wouldn't have thought it'd just happen the way it did, to be honest. For once I felt like I got into the motion of living and the right people just fell into my path. That isn't to say that I didn't mess up here and there (cough-boys). I had my share of heartbreak, jealously, and bad decisions. But I made it out all right, and I still have the ones I'm closest to with me. We're good. 

I guess I just got caught up with living. I was thinking about The Wake interview - hoping I didn't sound off-putting. Before I was approached for the interview I was seriously considering not posting another video on Youtube.  This year was the first time that I felt like I was just another regular person. When I used to be overweight (and even when I lost it) I carried it around with me as if it was my total identity. I never was just someone - I was a girl who had lost weight. Even looking back at it now, I made such a huge deal about losing weight when in reality I was pretty much just growing into my body. But now I'm a weight loss guru.

 I think Youtube is wonderful and impactful, but at some point my curated narrative became a little too important and stressful. I am not a Youtuber 100% of the time, so why market myself to be one?
I was getting anxious about where I'd take my channel - if I could ever have the confidence to do what some of my favorite gurus/friends do on here. Sometimes I would have to take breaks while filming because I hated seeing myself model in front of the camera. I couldn't help but feel like I was selling my body, my smile - even pretending to look and act a certain way so it'd appeal to everyone.

 I've been on the internet my whole life trying to create a online persona that not only satisfies me (as my own worst critic), but also 50,000+ people. The bigger challenge these days is that now everyone wants their own web brand and everyone wants to be known (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr). That isn't a knock either, it's just a fact. I don't have to make Youtube videos anymore to have a voice. I don't think it was as easy to do that a few years ago. I don't need instant gratification (nothing wrong with that either). I just need to find out who I am instead of trying to capitalize on what I could be.  

So what does that mean? I don't know. What am I going to do? I don't know. 
What I do know is that I want to relish my life right now for what it is with my newfound happiness. I want to maintain all of the friendships I've created on the internet (hey - YOU!) and share our good vibes. I want to spend time with one of my best friends before she leaves for New York City.  I want to make more short films. I want to work my butt off this summer so I can rent a place with my friend next year. I want to take more film pictures. I want to get to know the Minneapolis scene before I leave it. I want to get lost in weird cult films. I want to make a zine. I want you all to know that I adore you so much and I am thankful that you even care enough to read this sentence. 

You are all so super rad and are going to grow up to be ultimate babes and kick ass in this (sometimes) shitty world - and I want to hear about it. 

So with that all I have to say is: stick with me. 
Whether it's keeping up with this blog or showing me something cool on Twitter - I want to keep in touch with all of you. This is not a goodbye. I will post a video when it feels right, but know that this isn't the end. It's just the scenic route. 

I'll leave you with this photo that I took of a Palo Alto handout and a playlist dedicated to transitions and changes of scenes. Love you all.

Lauren Rose
Curbside Fashion