The Movie Oracle: February 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.

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.