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The Mammonite Agenda - excerpt

Fabulous Movies, Music and Books

Jake Shimabukuro, ukelele

Our Constitution | Fiction


Hayao Miyazaki | Sacha Baron Cohen | Martial Arts | Mishmash

There are a gob of movies out there. Below are some that you may not have come across.

Sacha Baron Cohen.
I came across Da Ali G Show at home one night, and for some reason, despite my general indifference to hiphop, I continued to watch for a few seconds, then a few minutes, trying to figure out if this guy was serious or what. In the meantime, I was laughing like a maniac. He has a knack for hitting the most hilariously vulnerable chinks in social and cultural fortresses. If you are easily offended - test yourself with these!

Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez

British comedic genius Sacha Baron Cohen slips into the skins of his devilish alter egos Ali G, Borat and Bruno to create loads of hilarious riffs at the expense of American culture. This series has been called "riotous" by The Dallas Morning News and "deliciously wicked" by the Boston Globe.

The four-disc Collector’s Edition features all 12 episodes (as well as commentary and extra footage) in a “blinged out” special edition box.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

"The movie film is a government assigned project to broaden and enlight people and glory of nation. Cultural learning is emportant to follow on global basis. We make our nation a better and more convenient place for house and living. Kazakhs are progressive and asstonishing people that with conclusion of project will have new optimistic approach in daily life in world of same people. Our film will bring the US & A closer to us. We help with needs of Kazakh knowledge and Us&a culture is positive step for future of our glorious nation. "

Hayao Miyazaki
These first 4 are films by renowned Japanese anime artist/writer/director Hayao Miyazaki. Just last week (January 2006) I got my first look at his work, and it is both beautiful and thought-provoking. Even the occasional flashback to Speed Racer is only mildly distracting.

If you like any of these things, his films are worth a look for you:

  • strong female characters, strong male characters, with cooperation and mutual respect between them
  • examination of the impact of the interaction between humans and the environment
  • magic (in the sense of the existence of things beyond our knowledge or understanding)
  • airships, insects, monsters, extravagant facial hair
  • consumption, cleansing, and rage

Imagine worlds in which the main conflict is not between men and women, but between those who can imagine new solutions to problems and those who get stuck in patterns that don't work. Also, always look for the good side of even his darker characters, and the complexities in the environmental choices.

Howl's Moving Castle

Hayao Miyazaki. (2004, 119 min)

To whom - or to what - have you given your heart? And what effect has it had on your life, on those around you, and on the world around you?

Princess Mononoke

Hayao Miyazaki. (1999, 133 min)

Environmental destruction is a recurring theme, and it is strong in this film. Also, the resulting rage, its relationship to evil, magic, and the possibility of redemption. Uncannily beautiful and moving.

Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki. (2002, 124 min)

Inspired by the daugher of a friend, this film follows a 10-year-old from moping in the back seat of her family's sedan into a world of magic, with witches, dragons, spirits and monsters. After crossing a stream into an apparently deserted town, her parents quickly make pigs of themselves and she is on her own. Yes, of course, she finds internal resources she never dreamed she had, and makes some very interesting friends.

NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind

Hayao Miyazaki. (1984, 117 min)

His first feature-length film features some fabulous - and fabulously large - insects, in another environmentally-focused story. Nausicaa, another princess, is intelligent, determined, and compassionate.

Castle in the Sky

Hayao Miyazaki. (1986, 125 min)

A great variety of flying machines, hair styles, and villains. Is total destruction of knowledge and wealth/power to keep it out of the hands of evil justified? I don't know. Is it more noble and healthy to live in close communion with the land, rather than immersing onself in pursuit of knowledge and its power? Don't know that, either. This film features the most clear-cut and cartoonish human evil of the 4 listed here; still, interesting questions.

A variety of other things

The Sticky Fingers of Time

(1997, 82 min.)

A very quirky film, and one of my favorites. It's difficult to classify - kind of a sci-fi-noir-thriller. It includes interesting concepts of time, time travel, how we impact others across time, extra chakras, and plenty more.

What the Bleep Do We Know!?


If you don't come away from this thinking it's totally crackers, it will give you lots to think and talk about. See it with friends!

It's part documentary, part story, part animated illustration of concept. The filmmakers bring together various folks, including a chirpractor, a theologian, a quantum physicist, to look at how we control our reality in ways we never suspected - and how, by changing our consciousness, we can change our reality. Hmmm.

The Company of Wolves

Neil Jordan (1985)

Based on stories by Angela Carter (who also wrote the screenplay), this is a typically (thematically) challenging Neil Jordan film - but it's also just lushly gorgeous. Angela Lansbury as Granny is scarier than the big, bad wolf (and of course less sexy).

One reviewer says:

"An offbeat Freudian adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood which intriguingly explores some of the adult subtexts of the classic story. An atmospheric mixture of dreams and fantasy, the film teeters on the edge of the downright bizarre, but it remains a frighteningly mysterious and slightly sexy thriller."

Mary Poppins

The 1964 classic, with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. It's still an astonishingly vivid pic; and the mixed live-action-animation sequences are splendid.


Deepa Mehta (1997)

I came across this at a film festival, and found it stunningly beautiful.

One reviewer says:

"Mehta has created a taut, brave and invigorating love story that challenges the place of women in Indian society."

Martial Arts

Drunken Master

Woo-ping Yuen (1978)

The first in the Drunken Master series with Jackie Chan, and highly entertaining. How acrobatic! How silly! How beautiful!

It is dubbed, unfortunately.

Enter the Dragon

Robert Clouse (1973)

The last film completed by Bruce Lee before his death, intended to be his Hollywood kick-off (so to speak). The martial arts sequences are choreographed by Lee.

Way of the Dragon
(aka Return of the Dragon)

Bruce Lee (?)

Released after Bruce Lee's death. In this, he comes to Italy to visit family, and ends up defending their restaurant from mobsters - who just happen to have Chuck Norris on their side.

Ong-Bak - Thai Warrior

Prachya Pinkaew (2003)

Typical martial arts movie plot: young man with incredible fighting skills (muay thai) vows never to fight, only to discover that he must to preserve honor/loved ones - in this case, the head of his village's sacred Buddha. Tony Jaa is incredibly athletic, just seeing what he can do with his body is worth the price of this dvd.

The Protector

Prachya Pinkaew (2006)

Another young man forced to act - this time by thugs who steal his elephants. Again, Tony Jaa is incredile. See him kick out street lights from a standing leap! See him run up 4 stories and dispatch dozens of thugs in one take! See him run up fences! Inspirational.

Oh, and watch for the Jackie Chan cameo in the airport.