Sunday, November 21, 2010


Why is the whole world staring at me?

Who doesn't love a little bit of Sam Jackson? You are undoubtedly forced to admire the majesty of ol' Sammy L's rendition of Lieutenant Danny Roman's shout out of a skyscraper window to the stalking helicopters, You want my blood? Take my blood! That's badass! This cannot be denied. 1998's The Negotiator is a solid romp of stand-off madness as we follow crazy-ass Samuel L. Jackson evade evil greedy government men long enough to prove his own innocence. The unraveling twists alone suffice as joyous entertainment, but add Kevin Spacey with a touch of intellectual bravura, and you've got yourself a bona fide evening of blissful action watchery. Spoiler: Sam wins. The bad guys lose. 

So, after you've nestled down with the soothing warm glow of pre-CGI-fest action, I shall thrust this bit of sand in your eyes; behold, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?!

The crux of each film's plot is a standoff. In both instances we are given background intel on our standees. In both cases our protagonist is suspected of murder. In each situation he takes hostages. Both involve local cops in conflict with the fiesty SWAT folk on scene. See! They're practically the same film!

I don't think the director of My Son, the magnanimous Werner Herzog, would mind me offering this spoiler: the good guys don't win. This is possible not necessarily because the film is a tragedy (though much of our time is spent in flashbacks obsessing over the content of greek tragedies) per se, but because the film doesn't really offer any good guys. Or bad guys.

But we do get ostriches.

The Negotiator sets up its reality as usual. Man is happy. Man has a good job, a loving wife, and a great best friend. Then life changes. Best friend is dead. Job is taken away. Man is suspected in his friend's murder. And so it goes.

A hundred minutes later, we push through the final action set piece, and our protagonist wins the day. Hooray! Sammy Jackson is free! His wife loves him! He has his job back. And he's made a new best friend (and clearly Kevin Spacey is a far awesomer dude to have as a friend then that last guy).

So, what does it add up to? Generally speaking, our two hour adventure lands us back to where we began. Everything is happily ever after just as it began happily ever beforeture.

That is the whole of The Negotiator. Okay. It is what it is.

Now, sign up for 91 minutes of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? and it might appear that you come out with less than you began. We start with unhappy people and we end with unhappy people. Worse still, we didn't get to watch shit get blown up. Nope. Nothing.

So, what does Herzog film give us that is of benefit? Here is the answer: ostriches. Ostriches. Do not doubt me. Ostriches.

In January, I will be launching a website in conjunction with about ten other souls. The theme for the website for its first three months is from Peter's letter:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation"... But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:3-4, 10

The world will burn. Everything will turn to ash. Only that which is good, holy, and beautiful will endure.

Ostriches, people, ostriches. Just look at them!

Note: This post was not written to deject all the merits of The Negotiator. I in fact, do find it to be a fun, well-acted jaunt. My point was only to suggest that movies like Herzog's cause us to dwell on those things which are more likely to have eternal significance. Ostriches.

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