Archives for posts with tag: film

Ready or Not

Everything would seem to have fallen into place for gorgeous bride Grace (Samara Weaving), who as the movie opens is tying the knot with rich and handsome board game heir Alex (Mark O’Brien) and, in addition to marrying into opulence, faces a major change as she stands to join “a real, permanent family”. The Le Domas dynasty, however, is “big on tradition”, and one of those traditions is a “weird family ritual” according to which the bride is obligated to play a randomly selected game on her wedding night. Unfortunately for Grace, the game she picks is “hide and seek”, which for viewers means yet another iteration of The Most Dangerous Game, with Alex’s insane relatives and servants chasing his new wife around their estate with an assortment of vintage weapons. Visually alluring and adequately thrill-packed, Ready or Not is more or less the dose of feminist poison I was expecting, but not too shabby as the escape-from-patriarchy thriller subgenre goes. This is probably the ultimate in-laws-from-hell story.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ready or Not is:

Drug-ambivalent. Cocaine offers an instant boost of confidence and energy, but fails to improve marksmanship. One character, more likable than most of the others in the film, is an alcoholic. Grace, however, prefers a cathartic cigarette at the end of her ordeal.

Class-conscious, having fun with the popular notion of a satanic elite. The Le Domas family owes its fortune to an occult benefactor called Le Bail, whose name may be intended to suggest Beelzebub. The Le Domas family believes that if they fail to uphold their game play tradition, they will suffer the supernatural wrath of Le Bail – all implying that people can only become successful in life through foul deeds. “It’s true what they say. The rich really are different,” Ready or Not confirms for viewers. Ethical living, in this movie’s moral universe, requires resistance to the avatars of caste, tradition, and family, which are equated with evil. The Le Domas clan represents a fairly WASP-ish version of the predatory ultra-wealthy, with the notable exception of Alex’s brother Daniel, played by Adam Brody. Significantly, this character is one of the few in the family to have moral reservations about Le Bail’s game. “We all deserve to die,” he laments.

Anti-marriage and anti-family. Marriage could literally kill you! In one emblematic moment, Grace angrily rips at her cumbersome wedding gown as she transforms it into active wear for the fight ahead. In another scene, a young boy shoots her through the palm before she manages to strike him – a foreshadowing of the crucifixion of motherhood, a symbolic value stressed again when a nail goes through the wound in Grace’s hand shortly thereafter. To be a good person in Ready or Not is to question the validity of family bonds and tradition. “I realized you’ll do pretty much anything if your family says it’s okay,” Alex reflects disapprovingly. Better be a good bad girl and do what Hollywood says instead.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

shed

Stan (Jay Jay Warren) is a troubled teenager whose parents are dead and who consequently has to stay with his hard-drinking and emotionally abusive grandfather (Timothy Bottoms). Seeing his best friend Dommer (Cody Kostro) get bullied every day at school doesn’t make it any easier for Stan to stay out of trouble, and the fact that that the biggest and most handsome jerk of them all, Marble (Chris Petrovski), deflowered the girl Stan loves certainly doesn’t improve his mood. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department also has an eye on him – and on top of all that, there’s a vampire hiding in the shed behind his house! When bodies start to pile up, Stan just wants all the chaos to stop, but vengeful Dommer gets some dangerous ideas about how a vampire might come in handy in evening up the score with his tormenters at school. Marred by some painfully generic dialogue, The Shed is nonetheless a successfully tense and sometimes humorous echo of the teen horror heyday of the 1980s. I give the drama a passing C but the scares definitely earn an A.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Shed is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS!]

Drug-ambivalent. The grandfather stands as a cautionary depiction of an alcoholic, but Stan and Dommer get together and drink with no repercussions for either character apart from the grandfather griping about his grandson stealing his beer.

Anti-gun, guns appearing ineffective as a means of defense and mainly posing an offensive threat.

Anti-military, offering a degrading depiction of a Vietnam veteran in the grandfather, who brags about his service overseas while complaining that young people have no sense of duty.

Family-ambivalent. The characterization of the cruel grandfather is simplistically over-the-top, and parental figures and figures of authority generally are given negative depictions. Stan’s father selfishly committed suicide, and love interest Roxy (Sofia Happonen) mentions that her stepfather abused her mother. In each case, the character suffers from the absence of the real father. “We all hate our parents,” she claims. In one of The Shed’s lamest moments, young rebel Stan imagines the indignity of living in a “shitty suburban town, hating your neighbor, hating your wife, hating your parents for the way you turned out.” Militating against the anti-family content of the story, however, is the “In Loving Memory of Dad” dedication in the end credits.

Anti-Antifa. When, toward the end of the film, Dommer has decided to turn to murder, he appears in a T-shirt bearing an anarchist circle-A, anarchism being the ideology of choice of unhinged adolescent losers brimming with resentment and out for revenge.

Racist! The mixed-race Pitt (Francisco Burgos) is a second-tier bully and also a weak link when, after having joined forces with the protagonists, he shows himself a coward and falls prey to the vampire, becoming one himself.

Anti-Semitic! Probably not, actually; but with any vampire film there is always the question of the extent to which the filmmakers are conscious of and engage with the Judaic dimension of the European bloodsucker tradition. The case to be made for The Shed is flimsy, but it may be worth mentioning in this connection that Stan, hardly an archetypal Aryan hero, does have posters in his bedroom that feature runic writing. That the vampire is able to subvert mystery-meat Pitt and deploy him against Stan and Roxy could be read as reflecting Jewish manipulation of minority populations in majority-white societies, as well. As with many classic horror movies, the action in The Shed concludes with a purifying fire – which is, of course, to say a holocaust. The vampire might just as easily and perhaps more justifiably be interpreted as an expression of contagious and potentially homicidal or self-destructive teen angst, however. This reading would complement the movie’s doubly meaningful tagline: “Beware the evil within.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

running

Slightly reminiscent of Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), but less self-important and with more of a sense of humor, Running with the Devil stars Laurence Fishburne as sleazy street-level coke dealer “The Man”, who decides to widen his margin of profit by experimentally cutting his product with what turns out to be a lethal cocktail of other drugs, and Nicolas Cage as “The Cook”, the restauranteur-trafficker tasked by “The Boss” (Barry Pepper) with ferreting out the fuckup in the supply chain. At times the movie feels like a bit of a joke, with a big-name actor like Fishburne, for instance, reduced to jerking off in a peep show booth and later indicating a prostitute’s strap-on and telling her, “I’m not payin’ extra for that.” With vignettes spanning all social strata and various geographical theaters of the drug trade, Running with the Devil does appear to want to bestow viewers with a somewhat nuanced picture of global implications, however – and it isn’t all that bad for an afternoon’s throwaway entertainment, either.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Running with the Devil is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS!]

Philanthropy-skeptical. Seemingly big-hearted, community-invested entrepreneur “The Cook” only uses a show of magnanimity as cover for his illegal activity.

Anti-capitalistic, with “The Cook” and “The Boss” standing for the dog-eat-dog nihilism of the big business mentality. Cage’s character, for example, speaks in bland terms of “administrative issues” while discussing his racket and is depicted reading a book about corporate leadership. In another scene, a credit card is used to chop lines of cocaine, equating usury and consumerism with coke addiction as America’s drugs of choice.

Anti-drug. Though the film features a somewhat sympathetic portrait of a Colombian coca farmer (Clifton Collins, Jr.) who only wants to provide for his family, Running with the Devil also emphasizes the street-level human toll of drug addiction, with Leslie Bibb’s DEA investigator character losing family members. “The Man” also suffers the loss of his family’s respect when his drugging and irresponsibility cause him to neglect them. The trade is ultimately destructive of the dealers and middle managers who perpetuate it.

Anti-Semitic! There is an undeniable racial charge to the scene in which the blonde “Agent in Charge” (Bibb) interrogates shifty Jew “The Snitch” (Adam Goldberg) who nervously asks to talk to his lawyer. For being uncooperative, he is taken to a black site for more thorough questioning.

Pro-vigilante, endorsing extrajudicial measures as the only way to conclude the drug war. Frustrated with the ineffectual and Sisyphean routine of law enforcement by the book, the “Agent in Charge” finally confronts the seemingly prosecution-proof “Cook” in his kitchen, telling him, “You know what’s funny? […] As long as we’ve been fighting it, nothing has changed. God knows I’ve tried. I lost my sister. I never had time for a relationship. And all for what? You can still get any drug you want, 24/7. There are still guys like you running around. You’re never gonna get caught, you know? Never. It’s like one giant, never-ending, self-licking ice cream cone,” she says before finally shooting him.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

vfw

Joe Begos’s VFW is a satisfying action-horror exploitation homage to the work of John Carpenter and bears an undisguised resemblance to that director’s excellent Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). In a similar siege scenario, the trouble starts when a girl named Lizard (Sierra McCormick) steals a backpack’s worth of dope from spikes-and-leather-clad local kingpin Boz (Travis Hammer) and takes refuge in a VFW post. Zombie-like addicts known as “hypers” soon descend on the unsuspecting veterans in the bar, throwing them back into action and forcing them to draw on their military experience in order to stave off the psychotic horde. (“An army of braindead animals is still an army,” one of the characters remarks – almost as if commenting on current events.) The cool “old but still runnin’” cast includes Stephen Lang as barman Fred; William Sadler as titty enthusiast Walter; Martin Kove as used car salesman Lou; David Patrick Kelly as Doug; and the always likable Fred Williamson as Abe. Cheers fans will also appreciate getting to see George Wendt perched at a bar again in his brief role as Zabriski. VFW’s pacing is brisk; the atmospheric look of the film is on point; and Steve Moore’s electronic score capably captures the Carpenterian evocation of the impending. The earthy screenplay, with its lines like “‘Sorry’ don’t feed the bulldog” and “What in the cocksucking fuck just went on in here?”, is nothing special; but admirers of the 80s action and horror genres and VHS culture will appreciate moments like the weapons preparation montage and the nocturnal excitement of it all.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that VFW is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

War-ambivalent or disingenuously antiwar. Fred has a serious moment in which he laments all the comrades he saw die in Indochinese mud, but some of the messaging as well as the mostly flippant ultraviolence of the proceedings – with guns, axes, bats, and a circular saw employed to dispatch disposable antagonists, not to mention the scene in which a musclebound brute uses a drug addict’s head as a battering ram – undermine earnest consideration of the human costs of war. There is arguably, too, a neoconservative content to the sequence in which Lou seeks to negotiate with the narco-terrorists and is killed for his trouble. The screenplay leaves it to a villain to describe soldiering as glorified “murder”.

Midly anti-capitalistic. Lou, as a used car dealer, stands as an unflattering avatar of the business mindset.

Drug-ambivalent. An info-blurb at the front of the movie mentions the current opioid epidemic, and early on a dead-ender jumps to her death. Other substances receive more favorable or at least ambiguous treatment, however. Fred drinks and drives without comment during the exposition, though later Lizard snatches a bottle from his hand, telling him, “This is bullshit” and calling him a “pussy” for boozing when things get tough. Sadler smokes “shitty cigarettes” while Doug smokes “science weed”. Abe calls marijuana “poison” and sticks to liquor until, just before the final battle, he snorts a fistful of the bad guys’ dope to give himself a martial edge.

Civic nationalist. Veterans in the film regard each other as worthy comrades regardless of race. “They gonna feel the might of the American military!” Williamson declares, and one of the hypers even gets a flagpole shoved down the gullet.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Stray Dolls

For those who enjoy movies like Heaven Knows What (2014), American Honey (2016), and White Girl (2016), which wallow nihilistically in America’s unwiped asshole, Stray Dolls is a decent entry in the growing genre. The story centers on Riz (Geetanjali Thapa), an illegal immigrant who gets a job as a maid at the super-seedy Tides Plaza Motel. Riz, who worked with a gang of thieves in India, is attempting to start her life anew but gets drawn back into a life of crime by her lowlife roommate Dallas (Olivia DeJonge). Dallas wants to open a nail salon someday, but meanwhile spends her time doing drugs and getting screwed on bathroom sinks. Her boyfriend Jimmy (Robert Aramayo), a creep with a neck tattoo of a snake, is the Tides Plaza manager’s son and a smalltime hustler, and when Riz steals a brick of cocaine from one of the motel rooms, they think they might be able to make enough money to get out and break the cycle of humdrum degradation. Unfortunately for the two antiheroines, things get complicated and they end up having to murder a couple of people before the movie is over. Those who enjoyed the three films mentioned at the top of this review will probably appreciate Stray Dolls, as well, but it breaks no real new ground in the field of cinematic slumming.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Stray Dolls is:

Pro-miscegenation. Jimmy cheats on Dallas with a black chick named Peaches (Yvette Williams).

Pro-gay. Riz and Dallas have a sort of half-hearted sexual attraction to each other, and participate in a three-way encounter with Jimmy.

Drug-ambivalent. The argument could be made that Stray Dolls is anti-drug in that nearly everyone whose life intersects with the business is ruined: a dealer is murdered, Riz and Dallas are drawn deeper into dangerous criminal activity, and an addict mother’s children are left unsupervised. Riz, too, is vulnerable to sexual assault after Dallas drugs her. The anti-dope message of the film almost seems accidental, however, and Riz and Dallas experience no immediate repercussions after bonding over some coke they snort together.

Misandrist. All men in the movie are sleazy and ill-intentioned, and Jimmy in particular turns out to be a rat. The others are violent and/or sexually predatory.

Immigration-ambivalent. Stray Dolls attempts a sympathetic portrait of a new arrival in the character of Riz, but fumbles it in that she and the other foreigners depicted in the film are hardly credits to an open-borders agenda. One of her fellow Indians, Sal (Samrat Chakrabarti), uses the motel to move cocaine by arrangement with the manager, Una (Cynthia Nixon), who seems to be from Poland. Una shreds Riz’s Indian passport after she hires her, knowingly employing an illegal immigrant, and is a generally unsympathetic character, though she does appear to want a different and better sort of life for her son, whose lifestyle she disapproves. “You work hard, you make it here. You believe that?” Una asks Riz when she hires her. Riz claims to believe it, and whether or not the “American Dream” remains viable is at stake throughout Stray Dolls. Notwithstanding the less than wholly flattering depiction of aliens, there is an undeniable anti-American content to the film. Juxtaposed with Riz’s initial meekness and politeness, Dallas represents Americans poorly by rudely using the bathroom with the door open right after meeting her. “Are you, like, Mexican or somethin’?” she asks, indicating possible nativist residue or, at the least, a stereotypical redneck lack of culture. “You’re gonna give yourself a heart attack,” one of Riz’s coworkers tells her, seeing her busily at work in the motel laundry room, thus perpetuating the meme of lazy, entitled Americans and hardworking immigrants. In one scene, Donald Trump’s inauguration speech appears on a television screen as Riz is cleaning, but the moment carries not so much an emphatic anti-Trump impact as a seemingly numbed indifference. Trump’s ineffectual pontifications are simply irrelevant to the situation on the ground in America, but the election of Trump may be added to the mix as a contributor to Riz’s anxiety about being caught by the authorities.

Irreligious. Una displays a picture of Pope John Paul II in her office, but represents Catholics rather badly. The John Paul portrait even seems to smirk knowingly as Una destroys Riz’s passport. “Jesus fuck,” her son cries repeatedly after being shot, saying little for the quality of his Christian upbringing.

Relativistic. “We’re all just a buncha sinners doin’ the best we can,” claims Dallas, and it says quite a bit about the film’s worldview that it features not one major character who isn’t a criminal.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

color

Nic Cage fans should get a kick out of this genuinely unnerving H.P. Lovecraft adaptation. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a family man finally “living the dream” after moving his family out of “the big city” and onto a rural New England farmstead. The trouble starts when a stinky meteorite lands in his yard, after which strange transformations start to occur among Gardner’s family and in the wilderness around them. Devotees of crazy, freaked-out Cage moments will have a ball with his close-encounter-in-the-shower scene, driveway tantrum, and the sight of him blasting away at a mass of slimy mutant alpacas. Some of the outrageously grotesque situations and visuals are reminiscent of films like From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), and Society (1989), which ought to give prospective viewers a fair warning of what lies in store. Color Out of Space does, unfortunately, overstay its welcome by twenty minutes or so, particularly when it slips into all-encompassing CGI saturation mode; but, at its best, Color Out of Space is good, spooky, occasionally campy fun.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Color Out of Space is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Drug-ambivalent. Tommy Chong plays a forest-dwelling hermit and weed aficionado. His chemical pastime is played for laughs, but his easygoing disposition also leaves him spacey, reckless, and incapable of perceiving the threat right under his feet (and in his cup).

Media-skeptical. When TV news does a story on the landing of the meteorite at Mr. Gardner’s farm, the interview is inaccurately captioned “UFO Sighting in Arkham?” and the reporter insinuates that Gardner is only a drunk.

Green, suggesting that politicians are insufficiently concerned with conservation and public health. Arkham’s corrupt mayor (Q’orianka Kilcher) proceeds with a profitable reservoir construction project despite being warned about the environmental hazards.

Wicca-ambivalent. Gardner’s daughter, Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), practices witchcraft, casting spells to, for instance, keep her mother (Joely Richardson) free from cancer. She claims never to practice black magic, and is depicted as a more or less normal teenage girl. Her spells are ineffective at combating the titular menace, however, and viewers are left with the impression that Wicca is probably only a silly hobby. Interestingly, one of the talismans employed during one of her rituals is a swastika made from Barbie doll legs. This could, on the one hand, indicate her character’s immaturity; but it might also suggest elites’ anxiety over potentially negative, possibly nationalistic outcomes of young European-Americans’ abandonment of Abrahamic religion in favor of a return to paganism, however superficial (cf. Midsommar).

Urbanite. Lavinia is dismissive of country life, dislikes being made to eat “peasant food”, and, unlike her father, would have preferred to continue enjoying life in “the big city”. The family’s isolation and remoteness from civilization and help does contribute to their downfall in the end.

Pro-miscegenation. Lavinia has a crush on a “kinda cute” African-American hydrologist, Ward (Elliot Knight), who comes to survey the Miskatonic River for a hydroelectric company. H.P. Lovecraft, who advocated “the domination of English and kindred races over the lesser divisions of mankind”, would no doubt have been appalled. Fortunately, the color out of space culturally enriches Lavinia before the suitor of color can.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

we summon

Three hip chicks headed down an Indiana highway for a heavy metal concert in 1988 are in for a few surprises in We Summon the Darkness, an exercise in nostalgia that takes itself slightly more seriously as a horror movie than last year’s Satanic Panic. Meanwhile, a spate of devil-cult murders has been shocking middle America’s Moral Majority. Can the girls really trust the three cool dudes they meet in the parking lot at the show? We Summon the Darkness succeeds pretty well at being suspenseful, but the satire is as stale as a 1988 beer you might find in the glove compartment of a stoner van in some automobile graveyard, the twists in the storyline furthermore resulting in gross inconsistencies of characterization. Unfortunately, this is one of those movies that can’t really be properly synopsized without giving away the payoffs, so mind the spoiler alert below.

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that We Summon the Darkness is:

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Anti-American. The movie takes place on the Fourth of July, signifying the relevance of its feeble exposé of religious hypocrisy and moral failure to American culture more generally.

Anti-drug. The annoying stepmother of one of the girls is depicted as both a judgmental suburban bore and a secret cocaine addict. The hapless three young dudes, meanwhile, are doomed by their party-hearty attitude and willingness to get wasted when they unknowingly drink drugged booze and end up as the captives of the satanic murder cult.

Anti-Christian. In the first of the film’s major twists, the trio of girls is revealed to be a cell of assassins working for the congregation of a greedy televangelist. The idea is that the satanic panic engendered by news coverage of the killings will spook people into joining the televangelist’s church. The movie convention of the religious, fastidiously moral figure turning out to be a killer has been done to death since the 1980s in movies like The Majorettes (1987) and Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988). A real shock ending would have been a televangelist who didn’t turn out to be corrupt.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Midsommar

When some guy named Ari makes a movie about the revival of native European spirituality, you pretty much know what to expect. Midsommar has anthropology student Christian (Jack Reynor) taking emotionally distraught girlfriend Dani (Florence Pugh) to Sweden to study the religious observances of a rustic pagan community. Unsurprisingly, the hospitality of the Swedes turns out to mask the murderousness of a human sacrifice cult. Essentially a Wicker Man for the twenty-first century, Midsommar seeks to improve on its model by imbuing itself with seething hatred of whites and offensive levels of graphically depicted gore. Plodding and seemingly interminable at two hours and twenty-eight minutes, and overstaying its welcome by roughly sixty minutes, Midsommar inadvertently gives voice to my own sentiment when, toward the end, someone observing a ritual sex act commands, “Finish.” The funniest line in the movie, though, is probably the one about Sweden having “a tick problem”.

2.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Midsommar is:

HBD-denialist. Accompanying Christian to Sweden is Josh (William Jackson Harper), a particularly ugly black student whose every moment onscreen is jarring and unnecessary. The quintessential specimen of Africanus cinematicus – the type of black person who only exists in Hollywood movies – Josh shares Christian’s research interest in indigenous European faiths. A candidate for the least convincing black character ever presented in a movie, Josh is given to sophisticated remarks like, “Do you think there is a masochistic part of you that is playing out this particular drama to avoid the work you actually need to be doing?”

Antinatalist. An annoying sex scene is intercut with an inbred, mentally retarded child’s hideous face.

Anti-white. Boiled down to its essence, Midsommar expresses Jewish anxieties about the rise of the Alt-Right and the end of the Christian era. The solar worship, ancestor veneration, and white costumes of the cult carry Nazi and racialist connotations, with even the beams in an elaborately decorated bunkhouse mimicking the Algiz, or life rune, used by the National Alliance. Likewise, a torch-bearing ceremony may be intended to evoke the Charlottesville rally with its tiki torch march and chants of “Jews will not replace us!” It is not so much that Ari et al. will lament the passing of Christianity in itself, but that it makes them nervous to see intelligent young white people watching Survive the Jive videos instead of attending a Zionist megachurch. Ari wants impressionable women and Christians to watch his drivel and call it to mind if they learn, for instance, that a friend is studying Asatru. “OMG, runes? You mean, like, that movie Midsommar? Isn’t that like, cannibalism and stuff?” Boringly, Ari resorts to the old canard that intraracial procreation is akin to incest. The Swedish cult’s scriptures, the movie reveals, are dictated by an inbred oracle, which is tantamount to telling Europeans that their ancestral religions are just retarded dribblings. But don’t expect Ari to make a horror movie about blood-ritualizing mongoloid Israeli rabbis anytime soon. That, after all, would be anti-Semitic.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Sequestrada

This is a weird one. Tim Blake Nelson, who furnished the voice of a cockroach in 1996’s Joe’s Apartment, here essays a similar role as Thomas, the representative of an American energy concern that, as the back of the Sequestrada DVD case informs us, is “building an illegal damn [sic] in the Amazon.” Thomas has come to Brazil to convince a tribe of semi-civilized jungle Indians, the Arara, to acquiesce in the face of a massive development project that threatens to displace them from their land. He encounters fiercer resistance than he bargained for, however, when Roberto (Marcelo Olinto), a local pen-pusher and liaison with the area’s Indians, frames Thomas for kidnapping a girl from the Arara. Roberto himself is the creep who is hiding the underage girl, Kamodjara (Kamodjara Xipaia), in his hotel room and preventing her from finding her way back to her family. What starts out as a pretty bland travelogue-cum-ethnography actually starts to get entertaining when Kamodjara’s incensed tribesmen abduct Thomas from a police station, haul him back to their home in a boat, and hold him as a prisoner in the jungle. Unfortunately, Sequestrada risks blurring the line between the depiction of pedophilia and the commission of child abuse in more than one scene between Roberto and his unwilling companion. In getting across that Roberto is sexually tempted by a girl who looks to be approximately twelve years old, for instance, was it really necessary for the camera to show his point of view by lingering on the girl’s rear end or to show him leering down at her as her head is in his lap?

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Sequestrada is:

Feminism-skeptical. Kamodjara, when she arrives in the big city, is interested in locating a place she heard about where women live self-sufficiently without any men, and she later recounts a myth about the pieces of a chopped-up snake transforming into men who attack a girl, men being untrustworthy and reptilian in origin. If anything, however, Kamodjara’s ordeal demonstrates a girl’s vulnerability without her father.

Anti-white. The white men in the film, whether American or Portuguese Brazilian, seek to exploit and dominate what is not theirs. Kamodjara explains that “my people tried to live with the wild beasts and the brancos [i.e., whites]. But the brancos kill our river. They created a monster wall to kill my river. They lie. I will not live with their lies.”

Green. “Hundreds more dams are planned for the Amazon, which would release a flood of toxic greenhouse gases, accelerating catastrophic climate change,” a blurb at the end of the movie alleges, adding, “The effect of Amazon rainforest being destroyed is so immense, no scientist can fully calculate it.” Sequestrada’s credits give a “Special Thanks” to “climate finance” operation the Climate Policy Initiative and acknowledge “Additional Support” from United Nations University, the Henry Luce Foundation, Tinker Foundation, and George Washington University. Whatever their ultimate agenda, it certainly wasn’t promotion of Brazilian tourism.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

Art of Racing

Not being an animal lover, I’ve never been much of a dog movie aficionado; but now and then, if I’m feeling up for some furry sentimentality, a properly heart-tugging pooch pick can hit the spot. The Art of Racing in the Rain, pleasantly, is a superior entry in the genre and distinguishes itself with a benign eccentricity. Kevin Costner furnishes the voice of Enzo, who narrates his life with his friend and master, Denny (Milo Ventimiglia), an up-and-coming race car driver and all-around likable and lickable guy. Enzo’s idylls are complicated when Denny falls in love and eventually marries and starts a family; but, even though he now has to share his best friend with these newcomers, Enzo selflessly remains his master’s devoted companion. The old dog increasingly feels a sense of helplessness as tragedy visits Denny’s household; but, though Enzo is mostly a passive observer and not an important player in the human events around him, he does get the chance to give his master a crucial nudge when it counts. With the exceptions of its abundant pee-pee-poo-poo content and Enzo’s brief, off-color remark about the plumpness of a pair of human buttocks, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a shockingly wholesome and politics-free dog-centric family drama, with no drag queens, beleaguered refugee children, or man-made climate change catastrophes to be found.

4 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that The Art of Racing in the Rain is:

Media-credulous. Enzo views television as a valuable source of information and insight into human behavior.

Class-conscious. Though he never exactly articulates it, Denny’s wealthy father-in-law clearly looks down on Denny’s working-class background and ungentlemanly profession. When the father-in-law attempts to manipulate the justice system to wrest custody of Denny’s daughter away from him, the viewer is left with the impression that the rich use the courts as a venue for class-based lawfare.

New Age, promoting the idea of reincarnation. Enzo hopes to experience his life so deeply that he will imprint its lessons and memories on his soul for his next life as a human. “I know death is not the end,” Enzo insists.

Pro-life and pro-family. “It must be amazing to have a body that can carry an entire creature inside,” remarks Enzo when Denny’s wife becomes pregnant. Later, after the baby is born, he reflects, “I had never encountered a creature quite so beautiful.” Denny is even forgiving of his jerk father-in-law after his ordeal in the courts, the integrity of the family bond being paramount.

Pro-white. Intraracial procreation by healthy, attractive, and intelligent white people constitutes a revolutionary act in America’s twenty-first century. In Denny, The Art of Racing in the Rain presents a positive image of a white father who even evinces a hint of the Faustian when he explains, “if you intentionally make the car do something, you don’t have to predict. You control the outcome. […] When I’m in a race car, I’m the creator of my own destiny. That which you manifest is before you. Create your own conditions and rain is just rain.” Later, Enzo observes that Denny has willed a victory into reality “because he needed one.” At the end of the movie, Denny lives happily ever after – significantly, in Europe. (Interestingly, identitarian sentiment even exerts a nagging but ineffectual pull on Enzo. “I thought about escaping,” he says. “I wanted to push everyone away and run off to live with my ancestors on the high desert plains of Mongolia.” Earlier, Enzo makes the ambiguous confession, “Sometimes I hate what I am.” It is not entirely clear from the context whether he means only that he would prefer to be a man, or whether he indicates resentment about his subservient status. Does he sometimes hate being a dog or only being a domesticated dog?)

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.

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