Archive | Movies RSS feed for this section
The Golden Compass: A Christmas movie scandal

The Golden Compass: A Christmas movie scandal

Why New Line Cinema and Warner glossed over the dark side of Philip Pullman’s trilogy

BY PAUL KAIHLA —  The $180-million Hollywood blockbuster opened Hollywood’s 2007 Christmas season with the marketing slogan: “One small child can save the world.”

But the book it’s based on, the first in a fantasy trilogy called His Dark Materials, was released in 1996 with a slightly more sinister air.

The author, a stuffy 61-year-old Brit named Philip Pullman, is a celebrated anti-Christian crusader. The heroine in His Dark Materials, for example, is not on a mission from God but allied with forces out to kill God.

As the Atlantic Monthly lays out in an exhaustive exposé in its December issue, the Time Warner studio that’s releasing this film, New Line Cinema, scrubbed all of the anti-religious references from the script  — and sanitized it for all of the bible-thumpers in America.

Read more

Transcendental Movies: Our Top 9 List

Introducing the highly-experiential, officially-unscientific Soul’s Code list of the most transcendental movies in recent cinema history, starting with the Tom Hanks vehicle, Cast Away (in ascending order). Almost all of these titles share a theme of personal transformation and identity-morphing resurrection.

We love using pop culture rankings and hierarchies to start conversations about everything from The Sopranos to the best resorts for blissing out and escaping the trappings of one’s own mind.

Here’s our cinematic equivalent of transporting yourself out of mental noise — and into an expansive state.

Click the comment button below to vote our selections for the top spiritual movies up or down — or add your own favorites. If you need suggestions,

Read more
No. 9: Cast Away

No. 9: Cast Away

Given its deficit of dialogue and, like, characters, it’s amazing that this 2000 millennial flick did more than $230 million in U.S. domestic box office. Cast Away translates that famous critique of philosopher Blaise Pascal’s into a modern scenario: the misery sewn by western man derives from his inability to sit quietly in an empty room alone.

In Act I of Cast Away, Tom Hanks is that man. A Fedex supply-chain guru, Hanks lives his life in hyper-drive — and drives the lives of others — with a merciless digital stopwatch. Suddenly marooned on a deserted tropical island, his only company is the most terrifying kind: his own thoughts. Hanks faces down a cacophony of past events, people, paragraphs, fantasies, fears and phantasmagoria that bubble up from the depths of his psyche.

First swept away by the sea, and then back to civilization by it, Hanks ends Act III standing in the middle of a cross formed by two rural roads in one of the plains-states. Transformed — indeed, resurrected — he takes in his lack of identity and place with a deep-seated peace, and gives himself up to going with the flow. Natch’, going-with-the-flow is made super easy in the Hollywood version because a red-headed beauty played by Lari

Read more
No. 8: Peaceful Warrior

No. 8: Peaceful Warrior

Nick Nolte in a major spiritual cinematic release? Whodda thunk it? But the one-time action hero (“Farewell to the King,” “Extreme Prejudice,” “North Dallas Forty”) and DUI’d party animal pulls off the role of a modern shaman disguised as a service station custodian with convincing presence. The movie’s not really about him. The central character is based on Dan Millman, a real-life UC Berkeley gymnastic prodigy, whose over-the-top ego lands him in a hospital with a shattered body. His rehab parallels an inner evolution and devotion to living in the Now.

Karma points: The film’s soundtrack and website are our favorites in this

Read more
No. 7: Seven Years in Tibet

No. 7: Seven Years in Tibet

Based on the memoir of the same name by Austrian mountaineer, Heinrich Harrer (1912 -2006), the movie traces the meltdown of the ultimate western ego by the mystical ether that was the Dalai Lama’s Tibet. Brad Pitt plays Harrer, a Nazi poster-boy who embarks on a publicity stunt to scale a Himalayan peak, a point of “national German pride”. Instead, he ends up a POW in India at the outbreak of WWII, escapes, and then treks to Tibet over 65 mountain passes and 1,000 miles of territory more than 16,000 feet high. In Lhasa, Pitt’s character befriends a young Dalai Lama before the Chinese Communist invasion — and soaks up the Golden Rule of compassion.

Karma points: When Pitt tries to woo a Tibetan beauty

Read more
No. 6: I Heart Huckabees

No. 6: I Heart Huckabees

Metaphysical bon mots ricochet like ping-pong balls between the characters played by the dream-team cast of Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Lily Tomlin and French star Isabelle Huppert in this screwball-paced comedy. Brought to you by Three Kings war-caper director, David O’Russell, our favorite bit of dialogue goes:

Tommy: Did you get it?

Albert: Yeah, you stop thinking.

Tommy: Yes, it’s fantastic.

Albert: It’s like I’m here, but I’m not . . . So, I’m not here.

Tommy: I don’t know. Do it one more time.

Albert: It’s like I’m a rock or a dish of mold.

Tommy: I’m whatever else

Read more
No. 5: Little Buddha

No. 5: Little Buddha

Think of this movie as the “French Lieutenant’s Woman” of spiritual cinema in that it toggles back and forth between two stories. One narrative is set in modern-day America: the search is on for the next Dalai Lama, and monks vet a caucasion kid in Seattle who just may be The One. Those scenes are cross-cut with the historical story of Siddhartha, the 5th-century BCE Hindu prince who famously achieved enlightenment sitting under a bodhi tree, and thus, became the founding figure of Buddhism. Directed byItalian master Bernardo Bertolucci (“Last Tango in Paris,” “1900,” “The Last Emperor”), and lushly-filmed on location in Bhutan and Nepal, this is the part of the movie that works. The other half is so-so.

Karma points: The much-mocked

Read more
No. 4: Brother Sun, Sister Moon

No. 4: Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Another Italian master, Franco Zefferelli, devotes 120 minutes of celluloid to a subject closer to home: the life of Umbrian saint, Francis of Assisi, the most revered male figure in Christianity next to Jesus himself. A period piece that reflects the halo of a fading hippie counterculture, this 1972 biopic catches up to young Francis, a diletante and playboy, as he returns to Assisi from fighting in wars. In real life, St. Francis underwent his conversion when he had an epiphany in a dream during a ride to join the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). He returned after one day, a changed man.

Karma points: The title is

Read more
No. 3: Groundhog Day

No. 3: Groundhog Day

A sly marriage of a romantic comedy with spiritual cinema, this mainstream hit casts Bill Murray as a cynical narcissist. His gig as a weatherman for a regional TV channel has gone to his head. By some fluke of relativity, he is forced to re-live the same day — again and again — in a hick town where he’s assigned to do a spot on Groundhog Day with his producer, played by Andie MacDowell. Murray learns a lesson in the karmic cycle of life: he first exploits his circadian prescience for money and sex — and after exhausting several cheap thrills, turns nihilistic and suicidal. He’s liberated from the never-ending loop of Groundhog Day when he devotes

Read more
No. 2: 2001 A Space Odyssey

No. 2: 2001 A Space Odyssey

Arguably the most influential sci-fi movie ever, this abstract cinematic essay was penned by two visionaries: director Stanley Kubrick and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. Its central message is that a supreme intelligence is behind the leaps that have informed the evolution of human consciousness. The widely-copied “stargate” scene at the end, in which a lone astronaut is propelled “beyond the infinite”, suggests that mankind is on the brink of its greatest leap yet. Played by Keir Dullea, the astronaut arrives in a new dimension, has a last supper, dies — and after leaving his physical body, is reborn as a spiritual creature represented by an embryonic starchild.

Karma points: The “Clarke Belt” is named after the screenplay’s co-author because

Read more