Dear readers, it’s time I did something for you. For a while now, I have often referred to the Thespian Nicolas Cage as my favorite actor. This is not in jest. You can ask me point blank, apropos of nothing, and this will be my answer. He’s in some of my favorite movies, and he’s in some of the worst (which are also my favorite). If you haven’t seen Nic Cage dressed in a bear suit running in slow motion, or about to get a face full of bees, then you don’t know how to be entertained and you’re watching movies wrong. This post, brought on by popular demand, is my explanation for why most every Nicolas Cage film is essential viewing.
Now, full disclosure, my friends. I tried, in summer’s past, a “Summer of Cage” in which I planned on watching every film in his filmography in order. This is no small feat, and I won’t lie to you, I did not make it very far. When the man can’t go a month without making a new movie, it’s hard to not see the horizon. This does not mean there is not enjoyment in watching the man perform, regardless of the film. He is guilty of overacting, something that I have seen my other favorites succumb to in time as well, but I forgive him. Enough talk. Let’s have a top five, shall we?
5. Bringing Out the Dead
Cage. Scorsese. Goodman. Ving Rhames. There is absolutely nothing to lose. Yet, this is a classically underrated movie, especially for Scorsese because when this didn’t perform at the box office the director was forced to sell out and make movies like The Departed and I could go on, but we’re talking about Cage here. He plays an exhausted and overwhelmed EMT working the graveyard shift, who is haunted by the ghosts of those he’s failed to save. Cage wears all of this wonderfully, and has never looked so broken down and defeated.
Too easy. In a movie designed to cater to the over-the-top, Cage pulls a reverse and plays calm. He is a father, a former cop, and even grows the ‘stache back in. He’s also a vigilante by the name of “Big Daddy” who has trained his 11 year old daughter to be a ruthless killing machine. Worth it alone for the scene in which testing out a new bullet-proof vest, he plugs her in the chest to make sure it works (“You’re gonna be fine, baby doll!”). When there’s no need to play it big, our man shows he can take a supporting role and make it just as memorable.
Cage was nominated for an Oscar for this one, which some may find surprising. What surprises people even more is that he won one already for Leaving Las Vegas. So why don’t the commercials ever say “Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage”? Seems unfair that Dame Judi Dench always gets the precursor, but I guess it’s just because Cage doesn’t need no introduction. In this one, Cage plays two characters – two polar opposite brothers, yet both remarkably Cage. He’s terrific as the loner, but even more memorable as the outgoing and slow-witted counterpart.
2. Raising Arizona
The epitome of early Cage. The Coen Brothers tapped him to play a young outlaw who wants to go straight, marry a police officer, and raise a family. But Cage cannot be tamed so easily. This movie is him at his absolute likable best, equaled by what may be the finest Coen movie, featuring the coolest looking Nic Cage anyone has even seen. Wild hair, kept mustache, Hawaiian shirts and tight jeans. Basically, hipster start up kit.
1. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Cage. Kilmer. Herzog. Heaven. This movie features Nic Cage smoking crack cocaine, carrying the largest magnum pistol and aiming at whoever stands in his way, and a scene in which he yells at lizards on a crime scene table that only he can see (a scene in which Herzog instructed Cage to “turn the pig loose,” which is my favorite thing ever said). In other words, the perfect Herzog movie just got the perfect actor. Also, Xzibit is in it.
I know, right. Only five when I could have gone on for at least fifteen. I could talk about which internet supercuts of his movies are the best. I could talk about how he got an autograph from J.D. Salinger as part of a “quest” to convince Patricia Arquette to marry him that took longer to complete than their marriage lasted. And I’d love to talk about his expenses (he owns a dinosaur skull), despite being almost entirely broke. I have clearly left you wanting for more, dear readers. Let’s continue the discussion; post below for interactive fun!
14 responses to “Summer of Cage”
Yay! I love Nicholas Cage! He’s my favorite in Moonstruck.
Also, have you seen Nicholas Cage Cats? It’s a Tumblr blog.
I think Cage cats and Moonstruck are due for a revisit!
It seems like we have similar views on Nick Cage, as I also think he can be a really fantastic in movies. He is great in Adaptation and Raising Arizona, and he does a great job at playing people who are totally insane. Good post.
Andrew, I’m not sure if anyone has played insane quite like Cage or if they ever will. Thanks for the comment! – Tony
I refuse to acknowledge this list until Wild at Heart is added.
Respect, KL, I’m inclined to agree with you. It was really hard to pick just five. I wish Cage and Lynch would team up again…- Tony
My kids are slowly finding out that when they don’t quite know what Mom and Dad are saying to each other it’s probably a Moonstruck quote. Great blog post, Tony! And you’ll eat it bloody to feed your blood!
How’d it get burned?!? How’d it get burned?!? How’d it get burned?!?
Tony, love the post dude! Your top five are definitely classics. Moonstruck is great as well, and I happen to have a soft spot for some of his tamer, family-friendly roles too, like ‘The Family Man’ and ‘It Could Happen to You’. Two of my underrated faves are ‘Snake Eyes’ (despite being pretty universally panned, but more over-the-top, over-acting goodness from Cage) and ‘The Weather Man’ (in which I found him to be understated, subdued, and utterly brilliant).
I thought Mr. Cage gave a subtle, nuanced performance as the demonically possessed daredevil biker in Ghost Rider. He also looks good in leather.
We just saw “The Rock” the other day at a local “Classic Movies” (The definition of “classic” is often stretched a bit). Playing alongside Connery has got to be a bit intimidating.
(Aside: I just decided that any movie with Connery [perhaps this could be your next “Summer”?] rises a few notches. If only “Plan 9 From Outer Space” had had Connery (as he is these days), or maybe “Heaven’s Gate”, they would have been “pretty good” movies.)
In production: 9 movies (including National Treasure 3)
His uncle: Francis Ford Coppola
His aunt: Talia Shire
Oh man, Raising Arizona is such a great movie, I need to go back and watch it now I think!! And Moonstruck is one of my favorite movies. Also, even though it’s on the worst list…I still love Con Air :P
Since this post, I’m on a quest to watch Zandalee. Cage, Judge Reinhold, what else do you need to know?
I need to watch more Cage films. Never understood why so many people dislike him, thought he was brilliant in Kick Ass, and pretty decent in everything else I’ve seen him in. Great list – will have to try to work my way through it at some point.