Frank's Faves: Movie kneels

Frank's Faves: Movie kneels

'I know what the blind man sees. On your feet or on your knees ... ' — Motorhead

Folks, it's either one thing or the other. Either I am cursed, or our president is right: We should forget about vacations. They are, quite literally, bad news.

Seriously, I was only off work a week, and look what happens. Fifty-nine dead in a real-life horror show at a Las Vegas music festival. Tom Petty dies. Hurricane Nate makes landfall in the record books as the fourth major hurricane to hit the United States this year and the fastest ever in the Gulf of Mexico. And our vice president walks out of an NFL game in his home state because players knelt during the national anthem.

Missed a good game. Made his point. Maybe.

OK, I'm not sure why that last one got as much media coverage as the others. Truth be told, the whole controversy over rich football players taking a knee during the national anthem befuddles me completely. I just don't get it.

Oh, don't misunderstand my misunderstanding. You will always see me standing during the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" — just as you will always see me stand up for American veterans ... as well as racial justice. But while doing so, if the guy next to me kneels for reasons of conscience, or just to pick up his cellphone from under his seat, ought I to be offended? After all, he's not on his butt. He's on his knees. How is that disrespectful to anyone or anything, especially the flag and the national anthem?

Historically, kneeling has borne a variety of meanings, from reverential worship (like the Three Wise Men in the Nativity story), to obeisance before a monarch, to surrender before a conqueror, to passionate earnestness as in a young suitor proposing marriage to his sweetheart. I honestly can't think of any other example of someone disrespecting someone else by taking a knee.

And football players doing it? Doesn't taking a knee in football mean you're ending the play before anyone can tackle you — basically giving up? But as more and more keep hitting their knees week after week of the NFL season, they're obviously not giving up. So how else should we interpret their pre-game kneeling but as a traditional sign of supreme respect?

In that case, why on earth should I be offended? Why should anyone? Let 'em kneel. First week after it stops being a news story, don't be surprised if old Colin Kaepernick is back to being the lone oddball he was when this all started.

But that's just me. Make up your own mind. This is America, and that is your right.

Still, if you don't believe me that all this kneeling isn't as bad as our president says, see for yourself what kneeling has always symbolized, as reflected in that mirror to modern society — the movies. To get you started, allow me to offer a fistful of my personal knee-bending faves, in no particular order, otherwise known as:


— "Becket" (1964). Richard Burton as the title archbishop, Thomas Becket, is murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by a quartet of the king's barons as he kneels at the side of his slain deputy (David Weston). Knowing the swordsmen are acting at the behest of Becket's longtime friend, King Henry II, played by Peter O'Toole, Becket dies whispering, "Poor Henry." It's a moving scene from a powerful movie about the price of sticking to one's principles — and an excellent example of the awesome courage it takes to face your enemies on your knees, even if it means giving up your life rather than your beliefs.

— "Superman II" (1980). Terence Stamp as extraterrestrial villain General Zod commands an unnamed president of the United States, played by E.G. Marshall, to "kneel before Zod." The POTUS acquiesces, but only after confirming that by doing so, he will be saving lives. Even for a movie based on a comic book character, it's a difficult scene to watch, as it demonstrates one of kneeling's primary functions throughout history — submission and surrender.

— "The Proposal" (2009). Sandra Bullock plays a pushy New York book editor who blackmails her assistant (Ryan Reynolds) into consenting to a sham marriage that will allow her to stay in the country after her visa expires. Promised a promotion, he agrees — but only after making her kneel on the sidewalk — in pencil skirt and high heels, no less — to propose. Yup, yet another time-honored reason to bend one's knee for a good cause.

— "Planet of the Apes" (1968). The kneel in the famous twist ending to this sci-fi classic belongs to Charlton Heston as (spoiler alert!) he looks up in horror at the half-buried ruins of the Statue of Liberty. Although some might make a convincing case for Heston's kneel 12 years earlier in the role of Moses before the burning bush in "The Ten Commandments," I have to go with this one for the simple reason that Heston's kneel in the surf illustrates a totally different reason to assume that position — as an honest reaction to a complete surprise, the kind that causes the strength to drain from your legs and dropping to your knees is the only option. On the other hand, that sort of describes the burning-bush kneel, too, doesn't it?

— "Platoon" (1986). Willem Dafoe provides the most iconic image from director Oliver Stone's Vietnam War film as the wounded and left-behind Sgt. Elias hits his knees and throws his arms skyward before dying in a hail of Viet Cong gunfire. In heavily symbolic slow motion, of course. Still, I challenge any one to say this kneel disrespects our flag or our veterans.

Topics (2):Film, Television