Four Hours in the Cage: An Experiment in Open-Mindedness

Last week I wrote an article filled with suggestions for superhero movie-makers, and one was to never cast Nicholas Cage as anything or anyone. I don’t have anything against the man personally, but the first Ghost Rider was awful, and I have yet to see a Cage movie of any genre I’ve legitimately enjoyed. My biases were, however, coupled with a disclaimer: “[Note: I’m certain there are watchable Cage movies out there, but that’s an expedition I’m no longer interested in embarking on. Call me close-minded.]”

Whelp, a bunch of people literally took up this offer to call me close-minded. Probably should have seen that coming. A few Cage movie suggestions appeared in the comments section of the article, more found their way to my inbox, and the following evening my roommate grabbed me by the shoulders as I walked into our apartment. “Give me four hours of your time,” he seethed. “and I think I can change your mind about the Cage.”

I honestly had no idea until yesterday, but the Cage has been pretty busy lately. Whether it involves blaspheming his true vampiric roots, doing meet-and-greets with himself, or accepting high praise from his clone on SNL, Cage has been making the rounds to promote the movie we’ve all been screeching for: Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance.

“Hello, everyone. My name is Nicholas, and I’ll be riding your ghost today.”

Ah yes, just drink it in. If you saw Ghost Rider in 2007 and thought to yourself, “Well that was pretty damn good, but I would have liked to see me some fiery ghost urine,” then guess what? It’s your lucky. Friggin’. Year.

A movie destined for so much greatness the trailer pisses on itself in fear.

It was the SNL bit that clinched it for me, though. Obviously I wasn’t a Cage fan, but goddamn if that man isn’t a good sport. (Andy Samberg must love using his celebrity impressions to provoke confrontations, because he had a similar one with Marky Mark a few years back. Very very funny stuff.)

So, thanks to the serendipitous combination of Cage’s recent press coverage, the timing of my article, and the surprisingly strong grip of my ninja-like roommate, I decided to give Cage another chance. Hell, who was I kidding? My Sunday afternoons usually involve movies anyway. I conceded to watch two Cage movies back-to-back, and then revisit my opinions on the actor. My picks? Raising Arizona and Leaving Las Vegas.

This is the part where I eat some of my words, because both of these movies are awesome. I chose Raising Arizona because dude, Cohen brothers, and it didn’t disappoint. I chose Leaving Las Vegas for the critical acclaim and darker themes; again, walked away a happy customer.

…just like some of Elisabeth Shue’s customers. Boosh!

And this is the part where I stick to my guns: I still don’t want Nicholas Cage in a superhero film. I don’t want to see him as a villain, sidekick, and I especially don’t want to see him as the lead protagonist. In Raising Arizona he plays a rugged simpleton, which is perfect because so does everyone else. His life is spinning completely out of control, and it’s hilarious to watch. But within the first ten minutes, I noticed something familiar about his character. Bad southern drawl, slower-than-normal intellect, conspicuous use of a wife beater. Wait a second. Wasn’t this the same character he played in Con Air? I always wondered what the hell Cage was doing in that flick that got me so cheesed off, but now I know. Raising Arizona’s H.I. is a great persona for certain comedies, but he doesn’t belong in mostly-serious action movies.

“I’ll be taking these Huggies and whatever cash ya got.”

Similarly, Leaving Las Vegas’ Ben Sanderson is a complete mess. It doesn’t get more rock bottom than using your severance package to move to Vegas with the express purpose of drinking yourself to death. It’s painful to watch sometimes, but again, Cage totally nails this character.

You see, Internet? Being open-minded can pay off every now and again, and I’m convinced there are at least a few more Cage movies out there I’d appreciate. As for all those action/adventure movies (e.x., Next, National Treasure, Face/Off, Gone in Sixty Seconds) I never cared for, I’m blaming the casting directors until further notice.

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  1. Adaptation(almost netted him an Oscar) is pretty good. Peggy Sue Got Married has Cage in some vintage crazy before being crazy was his norm.(Also bonus for young 80’s Jim Carey) And for the sake of Valentine’s day, The Family Man is watchable chick flick material.

  2. Yeah I dunno if I want Cage in a super hero either . . .

    I can see him being the bat-shit crazy villain (for that, you should see ‘Bad Lieutenant’, which is the only place mid- to late-career crazy Nic Cage is good, and hilarious), but I’m not sure I’d vote to heavily for him there either.

    And congrats on watching two awesome movies, but every time the Cage is mentioned, I’m always sad ‘Adaptation’ isn’t mentioned. Other than being a great movie, it was written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonez. The film is really interesting as well if you follow the auteur theory (which most if not all film buffs do, although my opinion is to be critical of it, and here’s an example why), this is one of the only times I can think of where the writer is obviously the auteur. And as a movie buff, it’s exciting stuff watching the self loathing and neurotic tendencies over writing a screenplay throw the character into chaos. Every short film/school project I’ve written for has followed many of these idiosyncrasies (even my co-writers, if there were any, had the same thoughts). So the film feels all to familiar, in a good way.

    I think this is my first post on here too. No wait, second. Anyhoo, wanted to also say awesome site! I’ve been coming here everyday for a couple years I think, and have always enjoyed it!

  3. Who could forget The Rock? Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery taking on disgruntled marines who’ve taken over Alcatraz with the threat of bio-terrorism weapons directed by Michael Bay? I’m sure the weekend it was a released there was a spike of thousands of cinephiles having to report to the hospital because of those pesky four-hour boners it provoked. One of the few movies I can stand Cage, because of the pure badassery displayed by Connery for the duration of the movie.

  4. Bad Lieutenant: Port of call New Orleans is the best Cage movie of the last decade. It’s crazy Cage at his best, but while his insanity provides some definite hilarity, it has some true gravitas and depth that hits you at the end. Highly Recommended,

  5. Cage is great in movies with great directors. the worse the director the worse cage’s acting. seriously: everytime someone mentiones a good role of his, its always of a movie by a good director. cage’s best performances are in movies with the best directors. his last great acting role was in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans which was directed by Werner Herzog, the only good director he worked with in the last decade.

  6. Just because you saw 2 of the only movies he’s somewhat enjoyable in doesn’t make him good. The guy is a terrible actor who has no control of his range, he’s just another star thrust into the spotlight because of nepotism and he lets that huge ego go to his head despite the lack of talent. Nic can do nothing but act like an idiot or scream like a banshee on screen. Why don’t you watch “Vampires Crypt” which not only is one of the worst films of all time (it’s honestly so bad it’s good) it shows why Nic Cage should be retired from movies forever.

  7. @Caleb

    There is a theory that there are no good actors, only good editors. I don’t think that always applies (although I was surprised how often it did), I would say Nic Cage is one of those actors. He’s only done well in movies with good directors (as someone else said). I think the only director who understands him as he is now is Werner Herzog, who fantastically manipulated his insane-ness for hilarity in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

    But back on topic, I think bad and good actor are thrown around a lot, when a lot of “good acting” comes straight form the editing room. I’ve seen it done, too, on some more indipendant projects around my school. No one can act all that well, but man some people can edit!

    That isn’t to say there aren’t good actors, though.

  8. Nick Cage can do no wrong in my book. Honestly, the worse he is, the better. That said, he is capable of genuinely good performances – he just chooses to be in popcorn flicks because they’re more fun.

    I’d like to second Lord of War and Adaptation, and I can’t believe Wild at Heart isn’t getting more love, so I’d like to recommend it an additional 5 times.

    You should see Wild at Heart.
    You should totally see Wild at Heart.
    What about Wild at Heart?
    Wild at Heart, dude. Wild at freakin’ Heart.
    Hey, Wild at Heart’s also got a supremely creepy Willem Defoe.

    Then watch Season of the Witch to confirm your original opinion.

  9. During our weekly bad movie nights, Cage makes frequent appearances in the line up. Last week we watched Zandalee, one of his earlier movies with Judge Reinhold. Who in their right mind doesn’t enjoy seeing someone smear themselves in black paint while yelling “BLACK IT OUT, BLACK IT OUT!”? No one that who. Wicker man is a classic too.

    In fact just watch this:

  10. Have you seen The Rock yet? Excellent team-up with Sean Connery there, and one of the few Michael Bay movies that gets anywhere without an explosion every ten seconds.

  11. I’ve been a fan of Nic Cage for a long time now I’ve seen almost all his movies and cant tell you that I liked most of them. Yea there are some crappy ones but I still watch them anyway. He has made a a lot of good movies in my opinion too and a lot of them have already been mentioned here. I have to agree with Bringing out the dead was a great movie, a bit wired but good none the less

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