The Movie Oracle: 2009

The gods are coming back?

Dionysos, god of wine: Yes, we are! Long ago the gods grew weary of man's problems and "outsourced" our duties to upstart religions. But retirement got boring and now we're turning once again to the mortal realm, and finding it a very different world. Where to begin getting in touch with this new culture? With movies, of course!

Athena, goddess of wisdom: And other things. I look out for social issues, Dio for aesthetics. Apollo goes for the intellectual, Ares for action, Hera for family values, and so on. Each god gives their unique view on today's cinema and society.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hacking Democracy (2006)

Ares, god of war: Why is everybody having a hissy fit about the Iran election fraud? Isn't it to be expected from terrorist Muslims? Who needs a flick about voting?--I vote with my spear. Thumbs down.

Athena, goddess of wisdom: Yikes! And with that introduction, my war-happy friend, allow me to comment. First of all, to be fair, Iranian fraud is only suspected at this point. Second, not all Muslims are terrorists. And finally, are you forgetting what happened not so long ago in the elections of the supposed champion of democracy, the United States of America? Questions are still unanswered. One strand of that tangled web is unraveled in this documentary. Thumbs up

Hephaestus, craftsman of the gods: I admit I'm handier with a hammer than a keyboard, but machines are my deal. Can the voting machines used in U.S. presidential elections be hacked? Or is fraud just a third world problem? This team's work concerns me. Thumbs up.

Two thumbs up, one thumb down

In this documentary, Bev and her team of activists investigate the super-secret software used by American electronic voting machines to discover whether it can be hacked. The results are telling.
Director: Simon Ardizzone, Russell Michaels
Bev Harris, Kathleen Wynne, Andy Stephenson, Harri Hursti, Herbert Hugh Thompson, Ion Sancho
Rotten Tomatoes rating: N/A

Get it from Hacking Democracy

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash

Athena, protectress of the city: Virtually everything in modern society depends, directly or indirectly, on one thing: oil. What happens when the oil runs out? That's the question in this eye-opening documentary. Thumbs up.

Hermes, god of commerce: Nothing the free market can't fix! Necessity is the mother of invention, and the forces that drive commerce will spur people to find new sources of energy to sustain their current way of life. This Peak Oil scare is a bunch of fuss over nothing. Thumbs down.

Orion, the great hunter: I'm not so sure. I once had that same attitude. I thought I could hunt and hunt and never make a dent in the abundance of mother nature. But when my overly-successful lifestyle led to the near-extinction of wildlife, Gaia got righteously pissed and sent a scorpion after me. Now look at me: a constellation in the night sky, barely visible what with the lights of the big city and all. Modern civilization could end up the same way, as a mere relic and reminder to future civilizations of what not to do. Thumbs up.

Two thumbs up, one thumb down
Peak Oil experts introduce the problem, the reality of the current situation, and speculate on the future. For a note of hope, see The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.

Get it from A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chad Vader

Dionysos, god of wine: Well, we here at The Movie Oracle have cut back on reviewing movies proper, but we're not giving up on movies altogether. Certainly not on b-movies. No way! So here is a real treat for you. Darth Vader's younger, less-talented brother is the day shift manager at Empire food market. I laughed so hard wine came out my nose. Thumbs up.

Zeus, Lord of Olympos: The mighty Zeus feels for this Lord Chad. His insolent subjects talk back to him, his attempts to impress the check-out girl fall flat... There was a day when all it took was a lightning bolt to whip mortals into submission. Alas! Poor Zeus. Er, I mean... poor Chad. Thumbs up.

Demeter, goddess of agriculture: Aww, Zeusie. Sounds like somebody needs a hug. You can fertilize my furrows with your tears anytime. As for the videos, wow... is that what the produce section looks like these days? I hadn't really paid attention since people stopped dedicating the first fruits of the harvest to me. It used to be that you could only get ripe fruits like that in season, when I wasn't pissed at my daughter Persephone for shacking up with Hades. Now you can get them all year long? Gosh, I guess I'm not needed much anymore. Now I need a hug. Thumbs up.

Three thumbs up

Chad Vader is a low-budget series of shorts published on Youtube by Blame Society. At present there are two seasons, several training videos, and Vader after the dentist. Visit and their Youtube channel for more fun.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dear Gods! #2

Dionysos, god of comedy: And now, let us present the second installment in our exclusive comic strip of mythic proportions!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Where the gods have you *been*?!

Dionysos, god of wine: Hey, guys. What's up?

Athena, goddess of wisdom: Dio? Where have you been?! It's been, like, two months since our last post!

Dionysos: It has? Oh. Uh... Yeah, ha ha. I was just takin' care of... um... stuff. I just woke up actually.

Athena: Argh! (facepalm) Why did I ever choose to work with a god of intoxicants?

Dionysos: So... what did I miss?

Athena: Well, for one thing, we can't keep this up.

Ares, god of war: It turns out they have this new thing called overhead, and it's really important. I still don't quite understand.

Hermes, god of commerce: I explained it to you, like, five times! Sheesh! If you're paying more for the movies you review than you get back in advertising profits, you lose money. Gods! Didn't you have to pay an obol for anything back in the day?

Ares: Yeah, I usually just sacked cities and took what I wanted.

Athena: That's not really going to fly in this modern age. We're going to have to make some changes to The Movie Oracle.

Dionysos: What?! Man, this is goat sh*t!

Athena: But it's better, really! Look, it's like this. Instead of only movies, we can also comment on other stuff. Stuff that's a little more, well... free.

Ares: Like boobies?

Hermes: (ahem) Usually not free these days either.

Apollo, god of music: I want a column on musical composers!

Hephaestus, god of the forge: No way! Science and technology comes first!

Artemis, goddess of wilderness: Hey, don't forget recycling and the environment!

Athena: We can all have our piece. As for myself, I'd like to report more directly on current affairs and social issues. For example, did you know this month is Genocide Prevention Month?

Dionysos: Woah, hold up. Are you guys trying to crowd me out? I started this site! This is my thing, remember? I'm gonna sulk now. ... Okay, I'm done sulking. Can I still review movies?

Hermes: Of course. Just keep your receipts. And don't use any credit cards.

Dionysos: This is gonna rock. I'm gonna make an encyclopedia of dead rock star idols. Right after I finish my game of Halo on Xbox...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Devil Came on Horseback (2007)

Athena, Protectress of the City: So after I made a deal with Dionysos to watch Darfur Now in exchange for watching his blood-strewn b-movie, Machine Girl, we decided to continue the trade. Actually it was Dio that suggested it. He said he had more b-movies to promote, but even more so he wanted to see more on Darfur. And to tell the truth I was, in spite of myself, perked at the thought of more ridiculous b-movies.

So here is the first in our trade: a story told by Brian Steidle, a former U.S. marine working as an unarmed military observer in Sudan. He witnessed, photographed, and reported on the atrocities, in the faith that the African Union and the U.N. would act. When they did not, he went public with his work in the U.S., in the faith that America would act. A grassroots movement has sprung up, but to date there has been little concrete effect on the ground for the Darfuri people. This film also gives more concrete details of the situation than Darfur Now. Thumbs up.

Dionysos, of the Wine: I am of course the god of parties, but who can party knowing this is going on, and that there is a chance to stop it? Even the god of revelry is not that indifferent. Just as the vine calls one back to nitty-gritty sensual existence, so does it call one down to the earthy realities of suffering. Another good one, Athena. Thanks. Thumbs up.

Ares, Lord of War: Suffering and death are necessary parts of war. There's no denying that. A soldier can't go into battle with a bleeding heart for the enemy--it just won't work. But there's also honor, and respect for your opponent. These Janjaweed militiamen have neither. They burn children, and use rape as a tool of fear. Nor is it them alone--the Sudanese government certainly appears to have funded and trained them. This god of war turns his back on both. The movie opened my eyes. Thumbs up.

Three thumbs up.

Brian Steidle worked as an unnarmed military observer for the African Union. His job was to monitor the ceasefire in Sudan. What he found was ongoing atrocities, systematic attacks by the Arab Janjaweed against the African Darfuri people. Testimonies by Janjaweed as well as eyewitness accounts indicate intimate connection with the Sudanese government. The film is partnered with Global Grassroots, training Darfuri women survivors, and Three Generations, preserving the stories of genocide survivors. Both are accepting donations. Proceeds from the film go directly to Global Grassroots. Click here to join Global Grassroots' Facebook cause, or to learn how to host a screening in your area.
Director: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg
Cast: Brian Steidle, Gretchen Steidle
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98% fresh

Get it from The Devil Came On Horseback
Netflix, Inc.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Machine Girl (2008)

Athena, of Victory: Okay, so I struck a deal. In order to get Dionysos to watch Darfur Now, the deal was he could pick a B-movie, any B-movie, as violent and absurd as he wanted. He made me swear on oath on the waters of the river Styx, then he picked this one. One look at the trailer and I flat out refused. But to avoid the Furies that punish oathbreakers, I watched it. There is no reason I should have liked this movie, but somehow... Dio, I think I'm finally starting to get what you see in B-movies. Gods, I can't believing I'm doing this, but... Thumbs up.

Dionysos, of the Bacchic Frenzy: Ah-ha! Indeed, the art of the B-movie is subtle and profound, is it not? It's based on the ancient wisdom of yin and yang. Listen up: that which is extremely yang is so far out of balance that it becomes yin, and rights itself. Likewise, the extremely yin becomes yang. Now violence and gore are yang, and when carried over the top they ruin a movie. But when they are carried far, far over the top, they become yin. The universe balances itself, and the movie becomes good again. Let us meditate on this harmony. Thumbs up.

Apollo, Leader of Muses: So you're leaving me to comment on the movie itself? What do you expect me to say? A pacifist high school girl gets mad fighting skills out of nowhere, carries a gatling gun arm that weighs twice what she does, and goes on a rampage of vengeance--blood spraying everywhere, corny special effects, acting that wreaks of goat cheese... this is your idea of a good film? Gods, get me back to Mount Helicon and my lovely muses! I'll never understand. Thumbs down.

Two thumbs up, one thumb down

A school girl who promised her dead parents never to kill changes her mind when her little brother is killed by ninja yakuza. A murderous rampage of gory, over-the-top violence ensues. Although the special effects are intentionally poor, the film and sound quality is high. There is a certain resemblance to Planet Terror, insofar as bullet-spewing limbs are concerned, but otherwise the movie is quite different. The overall style falls somewhere between Kung Fu Hustle and the Toxic Avenger, but with a lot more blood.
Language: English dub
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Cast: Minase Yashiro, Asami, Ryosuke Kawamura, Kentaro Kishi, Ryoji Okamoto, Kentaro Shimazu, Taro Suwa
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 63% fresh

Get it from The Machine Girl
Netflix, Inc.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Meet the Spartans (2008)

Apollo, of the oracle: Just one word: unwatchable. Thumbs down.

Athena, the gorgon-crested: It progressed in phases for me. First, I thought it was stupid. Then I started to laugh. Then I laughed a lot. Then I felt like I was giving birth to a Medusa. Then I just thought it was stupid again. Thumbs down.

Dionysos, of the street: What? Come on! You didn't like the Spartans marching to war singing "I Will Survive"? The Yo' Mama battle with the Persians? The... the... Oh, who am I kidding? Despite some good gags, Friedberg and Seltzer don't pull it off. This is one to save for a last resort on silly movie night. Thumbs down.

Three thumbs down

This parody tears up the tore-up Spartan abs of the movie 300. It also parodies a number of other films, from Rocky 3 to Transformers, as well as game shows like American Idol. It was honored with several nominations at the 29th Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actress (Electra), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel.
Director: Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
Cast: Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra, Ken Davitian, Kevin Sorbo, Diedrich Bader, Method Man, Nicole Parker
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 2% fresh

Get it from Netflix, Inc.

DID YOU KNOW? The Greek cult of heroes developed in no small part due to the war with Persia. It was felt that great heroes of the Iliad, like Achilles and Ajax, fought in the war with them, along with many other heroes of history and legend. After the war, heroes received great honor and were prayed to for protection and healing much like saints in later Catholicism.