What a disaster! In troubled times, movies about calamities can be an unexpected comfort

In the 1960s and 1970s, the world seemed to be falling apart – cultural, social, economic and political upheavals imparted a general sense of gloom that pervaded everything, and the movies reflected that. In part, that was through gritty, independent films that presented a bleak view of the American landscape.

There was another side of Hollywood, though, which found a way to capture the discomfort and fear of the time and turn it into something spectacular: the disaster film. Starting with the huge success of the all-star Airport in 1970, movie producers discovered that putting movie stars in peril was big business.



Airport Trailer www.youtube.com


Audiences couldn't get enough, which in part might be because by portraying the most terrifying and seemingly impossible concepts, then thrusting big movie stars into the roles of victims and survivors, the disaster films showed moviegoers that anything, even the end of the world, was theoretically survivable.

It's one of the reasons that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, disaster movies seem oddly, unexpectedly comforting. "We like to find hope, and these movies do find hope," says Los Angeles-based psychotherapist Louise Bale, who specializes in helping clients work through trauma. "The hope is always in human resilience and in humanity coming together." Adding in big-name stars and big-budget productions actually helps audiences connect. "They start out glamorous, but the glamour gets stripped down and they become more like us. We can relate to that person, who looks a little more haggard than they did at the beginning of the movie."

Whether finding an impossible path through an overturned luxury liner or looking for the way out of a 138-story building, "On a psychological level, the stories help us know that that's what surviving looks like, and we root for these people because we know they are not helpless or hopeless."

Of course, coping with crisis isn't as simple as watching a disaster movie. But for many people, seeing movie stars beat impossible odds can be wonderfully cathartic. Whether you're unfamiliar with the disaster-movie genre, or you've always longed to board the S.S. Poseidon, here are four can't-miss disaster movies that will make you think, "Hey, if they can get through that horrible thing, so can I" – and that's a message we all could hear these days. Plus, as Bale notes, what we're experiencing is hard, unprecedented and downright scary at times, but not everyone wants to express those fears. "Maybe we're trying really hard right now not to look as scared as we feel, but if we watch something that's scary or very thrilling, we can say, 'Ah, I'm only feeling this way because the movie is so intense.' And that helps us work through our own emotions."

Whatever the reason for watching them, you cannot go wrong with these four disaster films!


The Poseidon Adventure (1972)


The Poseidon Adventure (1972) Trailer www.youtube.com


Get past the dated, hokey (but often funny) first 20 minutes and as soon as a giant tidal wave smacks into the grand luxury ship S.S. Poseidon this super-blockbuster, which grossed the adjusted-dollar equivalent of $515 million, holds up as one of the most riveting adventures ever put on film. Led by Gene Hackman as a disillusioned preacher and Ernest Borgnine as a gruff cop, a group of survivors have to find a way out of the ship, which has completely turned over. They've got just hours to do it, and The Poseidon Adventure consistently finds ways to capture the humanity of these scared, shell-shocked people even while the sets explode and fill with water all around them. Between they explosions, they create compelling, affecting characters, plus an undercurrent of real moral consequence; as they move deeper into the fiery ship that resembles hell, even the preacher isn't sure God is on their side. (Available on all streaming services for $4 to $5 rental.)

The Towering Inferno (1974)


The Towering Inferno Trailer www.youtube.com


Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway and William Holden were all huge stars, but the movie's real star is the 138-story glass tower that's getting ready for its grand opening. If The Poseidon Adventure found some humanity in its giant cast of characters, The Towering Inferno seems more focused on the thrills themselves. It takes all those pretty people, locks them in a room 138 stories over San Francisco, and then lights the whole thing on fire. How they get down is the film's primary story, but why you'll watch is to see what happens when rich and powerful people find out they're in the same boat as everyone else. (Available on streaming services from $3.99 to $14 to own)

Earthquake (1974)


Earthquake (1974) Official Trailer #1 - Charlton Heston Movie HD www.youtube.com


Also released in 1974, leading some to suggest a double-feature of this and Towering Inferno could be called "Shake and Bake," Earthquake plays a surprising amount of its story for laughs. It knows its campy and over-the-top, that it's an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach that's just a half-step above parody. It also looks at times like a made-for-TV movie. But none of that can diminish its success. Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, Genevieve Bujold, George Kennedy, Lorne Greene and Victoria Principal are the human stars, but you're here to see them crawl their way through a shattered Los Angeles, and on that the movie delivers. (Available on major streaming services for $3.99 to $4.99)

Deep Impact (1998)


Deep Impact - Trailer www.youtube.com


Disaster movies lost their appeal for a while, but in 1998 came two end-of-the-world movies just around the time that some were predicting the new millennium would be the end of the world for everyone. Between Armageddon and Deep Impact, only one cares about the human element of its story, and director Mimi Leder's more gentle (yet still plenty crash-and-burn) approach to Deep Impact makes it the most lasting and affecting of the two films. It's about a comet that's hurtling toward Earth, and what happens when science discovers that the world really might end. The epic story never forgets the human scale – it's fascinating to watch these characters try to grasp the magnitude of what is happening. There's also Morgan Freeman as history's most pragmatic, kind-hearted and well-spoken president. (Available on all major streaming services for $4 to $5)


John Singh is a writer and entertainment-industry veteran who began his career as a newspaper journalist and has also worked at Disney, Lucasfilm Ltd., DreamWorks Animation and on a variety of films and TV series.

There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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