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Summer of Cage

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.

image from telegraph.co.uk

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.

4. Kick-Ass

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.

3. Adaptation
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.

image from nytimes.com

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!

– Tony

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The Completist

Dear readers, when I’m not busy being totally amped for the final season of the best thing I’ve ever seen on television (Breaking Bad),  or musing on how Louis C.K. is modeling himself as his generation’s Woody Allen, I’m generally thinking about the big issues. Like being a completist. (Full disclosure, I totally thought I was making up a word, but it’s real! Thanks, research databases.) Sounds fairly infinite and frightening, but I’m not referring to obsessive collection, instead the joy of comprehensiveness. I’m talking about books, friends. This post is about going the distance, in which your hero talks of completing an author’s entire bibliography.

That said, I don’t think there are not many authors for which I can claim this to be true, as the authors’ I enjoy most are prolific. I hadn’t even thought this concept as being possible until I picked up Glamorama, a seemingly random book by Bret Easton Ellis that I realized would complete my reading of him – he’s only written novels and been a prolific twitter presence, to my knowledge. Ellis is a strange author to be “complete” with, sometimes brilliant, sometimes grating, most times droll. What draws me back to him repeatedly is that his novels often exist within the same existing universe – jaded, desensitized, “LA” characters you can’t help but be fascinated by, if only for their removal from their surroundings. I never know if it’s satire or just how Ellis may really be, but it doesn’t stop me from turning the pages. Reading Glamorama did allow me to realize that keeping up with contemporary authors is easier than I had previously thought – with the days of letter writing unfortunately gone, the sheer amount available on authors has dwindled. I’m currently complete, and keeping up with the work of Franzen, Eugenides, Eggers, Hornby, Frey and Vlautin, to mention a few. As long as they don’t all drop books at the same time, I should be able to continue growing with them, without fear that they will start releasing their pen pal adventures, or too many collections of essays on birding (I’m looking at you, J Franz).

It’s the pesky older (i.e.: dead) authors that are difficult. How do Bukowski, Bolaño and Vonnegut keep releasing things from beyond the grave? My count is that I have read twenty-five by Buk (counting poetry collections and correspondences) and twenty by Kurt, and I don’t even know how many books keep getting found and translated by Bolaño in order to keep up. I have no sense of whether I am complete or not! Salinger, however, I have no qualms with. It’s easy when the guy stopped publishing for most of his life (on top of that I fully believe he did not leave anything behind – if there’s anyone who burned his work it’s him).  I will never be done reading Franny and Zooey, and revisiting the misadventures of the Glass family in any form. It feels complete.
So what say you, constant companion? Do you have any authors or artists you can’t get enough of? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Post below in comments for interactive fun!

– Tony

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