Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In defense of Nicolas Cage

While in New Orleans on April 15, Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage was arrested for public intoxication. This, sadly, is one more setback for the movie star. Between getting busted for taxes, being in crappy movies, losing his hair and now this, Cage has not had the best run of things. Now, I don't know the man personally but by some accounts he sounds like a total, yet hilarious, dickhead.

Who would of thought he was actually toning it down in his movies.

His acting style is off the wall but commendable nonetheless. Amazingly he both lazily recites lines and chews the scenery in the same scene. Embodying both listlessness and derangement with a single line reading. Is it a stretch to consider this man unbalanced? His career itself shows a balance similar to his mood. In 2009 he starred in both Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Knowing, an underwhelming sci-fi/conspiracy flick.

Whose poster looks a lot like War of the Worlds' to me.

With flicks like Sorcerer's Apprentice and Bangkok Dangerous coming out, it's obvious that Nicolas Coppola is working anything he can for a paycheck. God knows he needs the money for his 20 houses. Not that being in a lot of movies at once is a bad thing. Liam Neeson himself was in six movies in 2010. Neeson is more forgivable though, not only for his reason (I'm sure he wanted to keep busy after his wife's tragic passing) but also the fact that Neeson himself is very respectable. Maybe it's because his voice is so badass or maybe because he played a Jedi. Cage, on the other hand, seems more coked out than badass. And playing Ghost Rider is not nearly as cool as being a Jedi.

Did anyone really pretend to be Ghost Rider as a kid?

I'm here to defend Cage though. Yes, anyone can see that a full-length, live-action movie based off of a Mickey Mouse skit in Fantasia will be bad. But what other actor would jump into that role as elegantly as Cage? And with all the recent crap his name has been attached to, to the point where seeing Cage in a trailer is almost a joke, he has been in a lot of good movies. People forget his role in Moonstruck or his Oscar win for Leaving Las Vegas.

Not to be confused with Honeymoon in Vegas, a completely different Cage movie.

His career started out with bit parts in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. His big break came in 1986 with his uncle's movie Peggy Sue Got Married (arguably Francis Ford Coppola's last good film). 1987's Moonstruck and Raising Arizona cemented his place as a talented actor. Most of his films during this period consisted of movies your mom would watch. That all changed in 1996 with The Rock.

Wrong picture of The Rock.

Playing the horribly named Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, his character teams up with the always fun Sean Connery to infiltrate Alcatraz Island when terrorist take it over. It was Michael Bay's best movie and it was the first of many partnerships between Cage and super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Action star Cage would also be in the Con Air (awesome), Gone in Sixty Seconds (why the hell was Robert Duvall in there?), and Face/Off (not produced by Bruckheimer). John Woo directed Face/Off. Cage costarred with John Travolta, another actor that was big in the 90s but is now irrelevant.

This was the last Bernie Mac film released? Seriously?

After his action movie phase came a more serious Cage. This period would include his best movies. The movies that I feel validate his acting career. City of Angels started off this Renaissance for Cage. To be honest, I've never seen City of Angels, it seemed like a generic Meg Ryan movie with theology thrown in for good measure. It did however have a Goo Goo Dolls song in it that has been stuck in my head since 1998 (don't act like you don't love that song). So that counts for something.

Don't tell me you don't singalong to this song.

In 1999 Cage starred in Bringing Out the Dead, Martin Scorsese's most underrated film of all time. That is not hyperbole, I stand by that statement. In 2002 he starred in Adaptation. From the winning combination of Spike Jonze (he's come a long way from Jackass) and Charlie Kaufman, Cage was nominated for thirteen awards. Matchstick Men was another fantastic film starring the actor as an OCD addled con man. During this time were also movies that weren't fantastic but still pretty good. The Weatherman, Lord of War and National Treasure were all enjoyable. Yes, National Treasure is just Dan Brown-lite. But then again, Brown isn't exactly the most original person around.

Da Vinci Code before Da Vinci Code.

He has been kind of weak lately. I won't let him get off scot-free. But he was also in Kick-Ass, a wonderful comic book movie brought to you by the talent Matthew Vaughn (big Layer Cake fan). Between all the Wicker Man and Next crap he has released, there is one movie that stands out. Directed by Werner Herzog, 2009's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was one of the best films of 2009. Some may call the movie outrageous or over-the-top, but I don't. I find that its outrageousness only adds to the craziness unfolding on screen. And between all of that crazy is genuinely touching moments and characterization. Herzog masterfully creates a film that just toes the line between unwatchable and brilliant and Cage is the person the movie hinges on. He's magnetic as an officer who makes bad cops look like heroes. Anyone who doesn't like the film misses the point completely.

Crazy German bastard.

So yes he was arrested for being drunk in New Orleans. Yes he allegedly battered his wife. Yes he is in financial trouble and, therefore, stars in any movie he can get his hands on. But the man also has an Oscar. He has acted in films directed by Coppola, the Coen Brothers, Bay (if that's your kind of thing), Woo, Brian De Palma (then again I don't even like De Palma), Joel Schumacher (see note under Bay), Scorsese, Jonze, Ridley Scott (who I consider one of the most consistent directors ever), Olive Stone, Herzog and Vaughn. He has earned the right to be called a good actor, no matter how many cash-grab scripts he accepts. So give him a break. Plus, Dog the Bounty Hunter was the one that bailed him out of jail in New Orleans. That's pretty gnarly.

You definitely just played the show's theme song in your head
(bonus points if it's the Cartman version).

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