My friends on social media tag me in a lot of Nicolas Cage memes. It is not by accident. My friends completely and totally understand my raging obsession with Nicolas Cage, and never hesitate to indulge me. The hoodies covered in juxtaposed photographs of Cage’s face are a favorite. Honestly, why I don’t own one is inexcusable.
I have spent enormous amounts of time glorifying the amazing talents of Cage. I can wax poetic about the worst of his films and declare his best films pieces of art. I’ve gotten in arguments with random strangers over which Nicolas Cage film is the guiltiest of pleasures (It’s Drive Angry, fight me). I’ve seen his new film, Mandy, a total of five times (in fact, the film poster is the current wallpaper on my computer and phone). Nicolas Cage and I are…involved.
My obsession and love for Cage started early. I was pretty into Brad Pitt throughout junior high and high school. College found me settling in to my deep (and still current) love for movies so horrible that it is astounding I choose to watch them on purpose. Evidence: the amount of times I have watched the horror film (not the Michael Keaton film) called Jack Frost would shock people. I love a (good) bad movie. It was only a matter of time before I would be turned on to Nicolas Cage, the sultan of the enjoyably bad film.
It was Con Air, you guys. The flowing hair. John Malchovich being creepy and villainous. Airplane fight scenes. A pedophilic Steve Buscemi (side note: watch this film in 2018 and you will be blown away with how unsavory Buscemi’s character is). Nicolas Cage is fucking brilliant in this movie, playing a husband and father that just wants to return safely to his family. There’s a stuffed bunny that has become countless internet memes.
Con Air is also part of the Jerry Bruckheimer film period of the Cage oeuvre. These films include the classics: The Rock, Gone in 60 Seconds, and the National Treasure films (where is National Treasure 3?!!). Cage has pretty fascinating hair in each of these films. You might wonder why the length of his hair matters – it does.
From Con Air and The Rock, I began to devour every Nicolas Cage movie I could find. I watched the basics: Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona. The weird: Face/Off, Vampire’s Kiss. The bad: Wicker Man, City of Angels. The hidden gems: 8MM, Red Rock West.
Then I watched Leaving Las Vegas.
I would argue that Nicolas Cage is the most divisive actor working in Hollywood. Either you think he is a great gift to cinema, or he sucks. There is seemingly no in-between. Cage’s rap sheet of indulgent crap films has grown to include Season of the Witch, Bad Lieutenant, Knowing, and Drive Angry. The fighting among people that indulge in his movies has intensified and Cage has become a meme. He’s well-aware that he is a meme, which makes his decisions to continue feeding into the meme with a showcase of batshit crazy acting skills all the more interesting. I mean, its possible that Cage is playing all of us like a bad episode of Punk’d.
I learned that Cage is divisive for people when I finally saw Leaving Las Vegas. I liked the film – its hard not too. But I didn’t love it, and its not even in my Top Five Greatest Nicolas Cage Movies list. I realized after watching the film that I prefer my Cage to be batshit balls-to-the-wall insane. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want a a quality Cage film.
Along came Mandy.
Directed by Panos Cosmatos, Mandy is a god damn masterpiece. Its art. The narrative is deceptively complex: Nicolas Cage’s character Red watches his girlfriend get murdered by members of a hippie cult. Instead of crying about it (although he does cry and drink vodka in his tighty whities), Red embarks on a murderous rampage – determined to extract justice from the people that took away his girl. There is a biker gang high on angel dust, a chainsaw fight, and a kick-ass soundtrack.
The movie itself is so multi-layered and ambient, that it is a requirement to watch multiple times. There is so much to figure out and understand – about the characters and their journey, and the themes that Cosmatos develops. This is a very deep film. Viscerally, Mandy will linger with you. No question that this movie is more than just my favorite Nicolas Cage film, it is one of my favorite films. Period.
Cosmatos is gifted at using Nicolas Cage to his full potential. In a film that exists at the level of 11, Cage and his over-the-top acting style are right at home. His characterization of Red is never campy and doesn’t suffer like other Cage performances. This was a movie (in both narrative and style) that just fits with Cage. I am really hoping that Cosmatos and Cage team up for future films. It is refreshing to see an actor and a director working so well together.
So what does this have to do with a blog about books? Fair question. Sometimes it isn’t just about the power of written narrative, but the power of telling a story. And Nicolas Cage is a very good storyteller.