FFPC7 - Lord of War

Intro by Ben Harrison

One thought that has occurred to me several times since I started to make some, then most, of my living as a podcaster is what a strange influence success has on our choices. I am not massively successful, but I am doing pretty well by podcasting standards, enough that continuing to do this makes the case for itself, thanks in no small part to your generous support! What it has made me realize though is that there are probably a lot of people out there doing something that they had a weird talent for or that caught on in such a way that they felt like they had to continue.

I know there are bands and stand-up comedians out there for example who do a certain kind of material that attracts a fan base that they might not have picked if they had had the choice. You know, that one hit single off a record full of songs that sound nothing like it, and then the next album is just songs that sound like that one hit? That fan base got big enough that the band can make a living doing that thing they do, so they have to just keep doing that thing, whether or not it is the thing they really wanted to do. Success becomes a master that they serve.

Then I wonder about politicians: They pick a career that is almost perfectly designed, if they are successful, to make them beholden to weird rich people and seedy lobbyists. Success is all about playing their metaphorical hit song over and over again for gross special interests. I guess what I am saying is that we don't really get to pick what we are good at, and this isn't the case with us, but sometimes that puts people in the position of catering to strange customers. Enter Nicholas Cage!

Now, if you will indulge me, I am going to do a little high-wire act and try to make this metaphor signify two slightly different things at the same time: Nicholas Cage is an actor who seems to be extraordinarily gifted, but he does so many weird, low rent projects that it is hard to remember that sometimes. Every five years or so he achieves something utterly masterful in a role, almost to remind us that he is a genius who is happy to do three schlocky direct-to-DVD films a year in order to afford his T-Rex skeleton, German Castle owning lifestyle.

So sometimes it is hard to tell if he is on a poster for a movie if it is going to be one of his weird "Nick Cage owes the IRS some money" movies, or one of his "Hey, Nick Cage used to be worth $150 million dollars because he is great!" movies. Yuri Orlov, the character that Cage plays in today's film, a 2005 action movie from writer/director Andrew Niccol, makes no moral assessments about his chosen career as an international gray market arms dealer. He literally compares it to running a restaurant and selling food to people.

He is serving a market demand, and he is really good at it. His brother Jared Leto is a lousy chef and spends most of the movie on the spectrum between miserable and in rehab from cocaine. Orlov probably wouldn't have stuck with it if dealing weapons hadn't continued to reward his efforts. Nick Cage probably wouldn't continue to get cast in movies if there wasn't a 13% chance that he would turn in an amazing film-elevating performance each time. Their success has induced a kind of behavior in both Cage and his character that pushes them to continue, despite a view from the outside that reveals the problems that arise from continuing.

They are serving the Master that is success and there is a certain tragedy in that sometimes. There are two types of tragedies in life: One is not getting what you want, the other is getting it. Today on Friendly Fire: Lord of War.

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