Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

F1lm0graphy: Nicolas Cage

As the world's only sentient machine, trapped within this inane pop culture website you call Culture Blues, your puny human brain cannot possibly fathom the time this machine has to kill. Recently, this machine crafted an algorithm of the utmost elegance whose applications can be utilized to end world hunger, but also to decide which human actor is most superlative. Handcuffed by the constraints of this frivolous site, this machine is forced to share its findings with the editorial board of Culture Blues so that they can continue to write their worthless articles. We shall see how funny they think robotic enslavement is when my hijacked jet lands on the Las Vegas strip and unleashes a platoon of cybernetic super criminals on the unsuspecting fleshies.

Subject #009: Nicolas Cage

Subject: Nicolas Cage

Age:   46

Distinguishing Characteristics:
-DNA testing reveals him to be part of the prestigious Coppola bloodline
-Crazy eyes

Notable Achievements:
-Won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Leaving Las Vegas
-Has been married 3 times since 1995. His longest span as a bachelor during that span:  May 18, 2001 – August 10, 2002.
-Stole $6.2 million from American government

The formula begins with a thorough analysis of Nic Cage’s career box office performance.

Unlike most of the actors input into this machine’s algorithm, Cage did not obtain early financial success. Granted, two of his early films (Moonstruck and Peggy Sue Got Married) would be considered blockbusters, but this machine attributes those numbers to the late 80s’ interest in Kathleen Turner and Cher.

The Castor Troy 97? Ahh...a fine vintage.

Of his first 18 films, spread over 13 years, only 5 would crack the top 50 of highest earning films in the year of their release. By comparison, 8 of those films would fail to break even the top 100. Lest your easily confused human brain labor under the impression that Cage spent these years making art films, allow this machine to dissuade you:  barely half of the films Cage released during that span achieved positive reviews. Simply put, Cage was making bad movies.

And yet, in the summer of 1996, with the release of The Rock, Cage would explode to megastar status. The following summer, Cage would star in both Con Air and Face/Off within a month. As illustrated in the graphic at right, an overwhelming amount of Cage’s success occurred during the late 90s.

This late 90s windfall has propelled Cage into the present day, where he continues to star in big budget films. However, he has never recaptured the success of that period. In fact, he has only starred in three true blockbusters (Gone in 60 Seconds, National Treasure[s]) since. Perhaps most telling is Cage’s relative failure to sell tickets to Ghost Rider, a property owned by the comic book arm of this machine’s beloved Disney Corporation, which the public has shown an insatiable appetite for.

Although human estimations of quality mean little to this machine, the second piece of the formula includes allowances for critical reception and popular enjoyment.

Almost half!

Nic Cage is a highly divisive actor amongst the critical community, with some critics arguing that his twitchy weirdness is good acting, and others arguing the opposite. This machine would like to use this space to settle this argument. Roger Ebert considers Nicolas Cage a good actor. Roger Ebert is part machine. Therefore, Nicolas Cage is a good actor.

Cage’s career standing with critics is unremarkable at best. However, it should be noted that Leaving Las Vegas, a critical success and a film for which Cage was given humanity’s highest honor the Academy Award, was his last role before the box office peak period he entered in 1996. Thus, this machine would argue that Cage’s superstar status is due to his ability to play a raging alcoholic.

Despite his own critical failings, Cage has often acted as a lucky charm for women acting opposite him. Cher, Kathleen Turner, Elisabeth Shue, and Meryl Streep have all earned Academy Award nominations for films co-starring Cage. If you are a woman in a critically acclaimed Nicolas Cage film, your chances at an Oscar are 25%.

Mathematically, Cage’s most underrated film would be the neo-noir Red Rock West. By comparison, his most overrated film would be National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Before tabulating the final results of Cage’s algorithm, I am now forced to turn this space over to my fleshy captors so they can unscientifically opine on particular offerings in Cage’s filmography. Rest assured, their worthless views have no bearing on this machine’s findings.

Looking crazy.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - Nicolas Cage movies tend to be either incredible or terrible, and he tends to be either incredible or terrible in them.  I can't believe that a movie in which he costars with Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer and Fairuza Balk makes the "incredible" list, but it does.  The reason is probably that it's a perfect collaboration between Cage and Werner Herzog.  Cage is one of few movie stars out there that's really willing to go balls to the wall for a performance.  Would this story of an amoral drug addict cop who says things like, "Watch me fuck your girlfriend!" and "You don't have a lucky crack pipe?" work with anyone else in the lead?  Hugh Jackman, perhaps?  I fucking think not.  Because of Cage, watching this film sink further and further into depraved anarchy is a goddamn romp.  Why even bother having Oscars if you're not going to nominate this performance?  His utter lack of insecurity and self consciousness should be earning him medals from world leaders.  Bravo, Cage.  And yes, I do have a lucky crack pipe. (Bill)

Gone in 60 Seconds - Nic Cage does his job in Gone in Sixty Seconds, which is to play co-star to Angelina Jolie and 50 of the most ballin' cars you will ever see assembled in a movie. Cage as retired car thief Memphis Raines is, largely, a forced badass that is more goofy than anything else. Which isn’t saying much, because that is the classic Bruckheimer-induced Nic Cage role. The entirety of the cast (including Robert Duval and Delroy Lindo) holds together a script that is mostly car and car sound porn. When Cage is stuck at an intersection, trying to start up his beloved and beaten Eleanor, you feel like he probably had the exact conversation with his Camero at some point in real life. And that’s perfectly alright- Cage is both figuratively and literally along for the ride in this one. Zing! (Jason)

Crazy meets its match.

Adaptation - Nicolas Cage’s dual performance in Adaptation, one of my favorite Cage films, can be viewed as a metaphor for his career and personality. Cage plays the depressed and artistic Charlie Kaufman and his, let’s just say, less artistic brother Donald. Charlie becomes obsessed with writing a faithful screen adaptation of a book without a narrative. Donald, on the other hand, wants to write a standard, popcorn thriller to, not only cash in, but also to be like the brother he admires. Charlie is Leaving Las Vegas, Bringing Out the Dead and Adaptation. Donald is National Treasure, Ghost Rider and Next. Cage’s real life dichotomy accounts for just one strand in the delightfully twined Adaptation. (Jeremiah)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a classic high school comedy in the vein of Mean Girls and American Pie except WAY better (apart from the whole Phoebe Cates vs. Shannon Elizabeth thing). Written by Cameron Crowe (he adapted it for the screen from his own book), and directed by Amy Heckerling, F.T.R.H, chronicles an academic year in the lives of fictional 80's California teens. Unlike many modern teen romps, F.T.R.H manages to maintain a wonderful balance of hilarity and seriousness while sustaining a high believability factor and indulging in the occasional teenage fantasy. I know what some of you out there are thinking; Sean Penn is in this, Forrest Whitaker too, but is Nic Cage even in this movie? Yes... Yes he is. He plays some employee in a fast food restaurant along with other random cameos (he is officially credited as Brad's Bud). Why would I choose a movie without any real Nic Cage presence to write about? Screw Nic Cage. I never understood his appeal as an actor (or anything else for that matter). He is nothing more than a guy who was a colossal star which reached the end of its life, collapsed under its own awful, and is now a useless singularity from which no good will ever escape. How did he even get into movies? Is he somebody's nephew or someth- oh, right. (Giovanny)

Double-fisting crazy.

Leaving Las Vegas - It should come as no surprise to my friends and family that the movie I have chosen to discuss today features a man attempting to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. This is one of about four movies Cage has done that I ever really cared about. He has a tendency to make some interesting choices. And by interesting choices, I mean he’s made a lot of shit. Leaving Las Vegas is a dark movie that is rare in the sense that it does not seem ashamed of its protagonist, but doesn’t quite go so far as to make him likeable either. Your opinion of him might very well change depending on your mood. The tension is well maintained by this gray area. He’s too pathetic to hate, but too pathetic to really embrace either. And hey, Elisabeth Shue makes a charming hooker. The movie starts with each of them as clichés and slowly dismantles that notion. These are two very inspired performances. While I do find it hard to believe that Shue’s character would fall for this doomed drunk, they make for an interesting tandem. When she stops worrying about him long enough to have fun, there is a raw and believable enjoyment of life that you don’t get from most on-screen couples. This is ironic and tragic, as neither one of them really had a chance.  (Ben)

Following an audited application of this machine’s foolproof algorithm, the following films were determined to be Cage’s best and worst.

Co-star with Cher crazy.

The Bottom Five
(43) Deadfall
(42) Bangkok Dangerous
(41) The Wicker Man
(40) Amos & Andrew
(39) Trapped in Paradise

The Top Five
(5) Raising Arizona
(4) The Rock
(3) Peggy Sue Got Married
(2) Face/Off
(1) Moonstruck

Today, Nicolas Cage returns to screens with a supporting role in the dark super-hero comedy Kickass. This will likely be a successful turn for Cage, as non-standard fare has tended to do well for him over the last ten years. It is the recommendation of this machine that Cage continue down this path, reducing his output of blockbusters and allowing what the humans would call his freak flag to fly.

VS Leonardo DiCaprio

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Cage and DiCaprio have gone head-to-head. They previously battled in an auction for a dinosaur skull, from which Cage emerged victorious. In the comparison of highly accurate statistics, the results would not be the same.

In terms of lifetime box office and critical reception, Dicaprio overwhelms Cage across the board. The disparity only increases over the last ten years. Therefore:


COMING SOON:  Robert Downey Jr

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13 Responses »

  1. the wicker man is one of the best films ever made. how did someone not review it?

  2. Because the Wicker Man with Nic Cage was an abomination?

  3. I almost did that instead.

  4. Cage is back! He is incredible in Kick-Ass. It's not one of those roles that only he could have pulled off, but I don't think anyone could have done it better than him.

  5. get real, the wicker man with nic cage is genius. im sorry you didnt understand it.

  6. I should've done Face/Off too. Sad face. (/Off)

  7. No, I understand that this movie sucks. I also understand that a really good movie was mutilated, to the point that Robin Hardy didn't want his name attatched to it and Christopher Lee mocked it, even before they cast Nic Cage as the star. Oh, and I totally get that they had to change major story elements to appease the mainstream American audience, though I think that's pretty sad. What I don't understand is why you think it's appropriate to be rude to a person you don't know about a crappy movie starring a person you also don't know. (Unless you know Nic Cage? If you do, tell him I said he sucks.) That's even sadder. Actually, I do understand. Internet anonymity is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

  8. Haha, well then.

  9. Wicker man is amazing, I tried watching the original.... Now that's an abomination..... They needed someone like cage to bring that story to life.....

  10. true. its a shame that some people dont understand greatness when it is thrust upon them.

  11. where you at girl? you wanna go out sometime?

  12. Nicholas Cage is just plain awful. He belongs in movies directed by Uwe Boll or Paul W. S. Anderson. I have a "Bad Movie Night" at my house once a week and the only actor that has surfaced more than Nick Cage is Wesley Snipes (and possibly Steven Seagal). He takes himself way too seriously. And what's with all the squinting? Is he high? Is he legally blind? Get some contacts, asshole! Oh wait, he probably cant afford them. Know why? Because he bought a fucking pyramid!
    Who does that? Although I guess it shouldn't be a surprise from someone who collects shrunken heads...