September 16, 2013

PAUL BLANK | Cage Be With You

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Cage be with you. And also with you. Anyone who’s spent time around the cultural savants of the Internet will be familiar with the majestic countenance of Nicolas Kim Coppola, known to mere mortals as Nicolas Cage. The gravelly voice, the forehead, the hair (oh God, the hair); it’s easy to see how the Long Beach-born auteur has become the subject of fervent ardor and smarm across all corners of the web. Immortalized in YouTube staples like “Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit” and this collection of Japanese Pachinko commercials, the man has staked a career on of taking the most outlandish roles and overacting in them like no man has ever overacted before. It’s a thirty-five-year portfolio one can only look upon in awe, and it was in doing so that two friends and I decided to embark on the kind of adventure that only lunacy and unemployment could yield.

We were going to watch bad Nicolas Cage movies. Every single one of them.

Okay, so we were going to watch five. But these five Nic Cage movies were the worst of the worst — follies that would make Michael Bay look like fucking Gaudi. And we would do it in one night, with minimal bathroom breaks.

Vampire’s Kiss (1989): If you’ve seen the various Nic Cage image macros circulating the Internet, chances are they’re from this film. Fresh off a Golden Globe nomination, Cage dives deep into the life of Peter Loew, a corporate executive who believes he is becoming a vampire. If you’re looking for a non-stop Cage-gasm, let me stop you now and recommend this film, because it’s bonkers from start to finish. Cage hops around and mugs it like a Nosferatu high on Reaganomics, all for the purpose of tormenting this poor secretary who sets Loew off his rocker by misplacing a file. Whether he’s delighting in words like “soup” or reciting the entire alphabet, the guy discharges his lines like poisoned-tipped spears. The film does a terrible job of pretending it’s anything but 103 minutes of Cage flying the coup, only occasionally referencing its plot between its protagonist’s bouts of mania. But as a testament to Cage’s reputation as the most unhinged actor in Hollywood, this film was an early highlight.

Zandalee (1991): More porno than film, this direct-to-VHS masterpiece was the perfect respite from Vampire’s Kiss’s hysteria. In it, Cage plays Johnny Collins, a painter who engages in a love triangle between the titular protagonist and the guy in Beverly Hills Cop who wasn’t Eddie Murphy. When he isn’t having sex on camera, Cage descends into the streets of New Orleans chatting with a Steve Buschemi, who seems to be perpetually riding away on the back of a garbage truck. The film peaks early with Cage’s introduction, in which he inexplicably headbangs in the hallway before greeting his longtime friend, his swirling mane and goatee just barely visible beneath the dim lights. For that scene alone, the film deserves its NC-17 rating.

Next (2007): Skipping ahead 15 years to the “Golden Age of Terrible Nicolas Cage Films”, Next hardly features Cage at his craziest, but its plot is among the most bizarre in his career. Nic plays a psychic Las Vegas magician tapped by the CIA to lead a mission to locate a bomb planted by the Russians. In Los Angeles. In 2007. Aside from its hilariously improbable storyline, the film is awash in bad decisions, from amateurish CGI to a color palette so oppressively yellow, you’d think the cinematographer wouldn’t know a white balance if it kneed him in the crotch. Also, massive sections of the film are revealed to be the dreams of Cage and his cohorts, which, you know, is always a satisfying plot device. You know the old Hollywood saying: If it worked for Sex and the Teenage Mind, it’ll work for anything.

Stolen (2012): In a film that in no way resembles the Liam Neeson vehicle of a similar name, Cage is relatively subdued as a reformed thief doing one last heist to save his kidnapped daughter. He gets in a few choice lines, like when he’s burning a hole through the floor of a bank vault (“I need more gold.”), but the best scenes are with Lefleur the taxi dispatcher, who steals the show with his sitcom-ready one-liners (“Did you just turn white on me?” “Who that is?”). Despite this, our patience began to wane in the final leg of our quest for lack of rife Caginess. Thankfully, we chose our final film with the intent to end with a bang.

The Wicker Man (2006): Not totally in chronological order, but no terrible Nic Cage movie marathon would be complete without this paragon of bad taste sitting at its top. Cage puts in his career best, reeling off his meme-tastic classics (“No, not the bees!!!!” “Killing me won’t get back your goddamn honey!”), getting his legs broken in by hammers and dropkicking a woman in a bear suit. The problem is that all these moments happen within the film’s last 15 minutes; the other 85 are spent on turgid character development and lazy flashbacks. And it all leads up to the most nonsensical final shot in film history, a capstone for the ages, maddeningly brilliant in its utter stupidity.

One friend disagreed. “Fuck that movie,” he screamed, guzzling down his Shock Top and storming out of the room. I wouldn’t see him for three days, worried that our devotion to NC had ruined our friendship. Sure enough though, I received a Facebook message from him, a link to a new straight-to-iTunes film, Frozen Ground, in which Cage plays an Alaskan detective who teams up with Vanessa Hudgens to track down a serial killer played by John Cusack. It was the kind of awful pulp we’d gleefully suck through a straw, and it was then that I knew how I’d be spending my weekend. You see, following Cage can try your will, but it only makes your faith grow stronger. Trust in Cage, and the fruits of his love will be bestowed upon you.