Returning to B-List Actor Thursday (though technically the actor below is A-list…Lord knows why)
Nicolas Cage is a bad actor.
There is no way around that.
Or as one friend puts it, “Nicolas Cage is the idiot savant of acting”.
Sometimes it’s painful to watch Nicolas Cage.
Sometimes you feel uncomfortable for him. Embarrassed. Angry. Horny.
Sometimes you find yourself pant-less staring at pictures of Nicolas Cage with no shirt on and bad hair plugs and….
Nicolas Cage is such a bad actor that when I tried discussing this fact with my father, he felt that Nicolas Cage is bad enough not to warrant a discussion about how bad he is.
“But hear me out, Pop. Nicolas Cage is so bad that he’s good. When he plays serious roles, he can’t do it. But when he plays over-the-top characters- he’s f’ing James Dean or Brando! You following me?”
“Sure,” my father said in the same tone he indulged me in as a child when I talked incessantly in the same manner about Paul Reubens and Crispin Glover.
Let’s think about this for a second: being so bad at a craft that you’re deemed as awesome. We all know that Van Damme, Hasselhoff, Seagal have made careers out of it. Hell, Nicolas Cage has made more movies (65) than years he has been on this planet (46), so obviously he’s doing something so wrong that it’s right.
However, Cage has surpassed the Van Dammes and the Seagals and somehow has straddled the line between respected actor and the butt of so, so many jokes. So what is about Nicolas Cage that has won over audience, producers, and studio executives for decades?
Well, for one, it doesn’t hurt to have the last name Coppola. Sure he changed his name early in the game, but every knows that his uncle directed one of the top 2 greatest American movies of all time. Regardless of his acting ability, Cage got his foot in the door simply based off of this one word. However, Cage got that foot in the door, and like an unleashed leopard, just kept walking. Nobody slapped his ass and told him to get lost and said, “Look at that little Coppola running all the way home!” Nope. Somehow that dude endured and has been able to churn out mediocre hit after mediocre hit.
The ultimate secret to Nicolas Cage is that he’s good at playing four different archetypes: 1.) The Crazy Person 2.) The Elvis Impersonator 3.) The Redneck and 4.) The Nerd. Sometimes he combines 2 or more of the characters into one and then we’re really in for a treat. The other archetypes that he plays: 1.) Rouge Cop 2.) Action Hero 3.) Family Man 4.) Love Interest- he ain’t so good at.
In short, Crazy Nerdy Redneck Elvis Impersonator= Good.
Rouge Action Husband Dad Lover= Not Good.
Below are some of my favorite Nicolas Cage films and the corresponding archetypal character he plays.
What is your favorite Nicolas Cage movie?
Valley Girl (The Nerd)-
Valley Girl was Nicolas Cage’s first featured movie role. He was 19 when it came out in theaters. He played a punk kid from Hollywood that falls in love with an uptight girl from The Valley. That’s about the entire plot of the movie.
Why he was so likable: Not only did he nail the awkward way teenagers try to act cool, he shaved his chest hair in the shape of a “V”. That alone wins points all around. It also predates when his hair started to thin and get all wonky.
Peggy Sue Got Married (The Nerd and The Elvis Impersonator)-
At 22, Nicolas Cage played both the middle-aged and teenage version of Peggy Sue’s (Kathleen Turner) husband, Charlie. The middle-aged version was unhappy in his marriage, the teenage version wanted to be a singer and was full of hopes and dreams.
Why he was so likable: Mostly because of Cage’s delivery of, “You mean my ha-waaang?” when Peggy is rubbing ol’ “Lucky Charlie” in the car. Unfortunately I could only find this video below of the scene. You have to fast forward to 4:24. Again, Cage really nails the awkward teenager trying to be cool. Maybe because he was an awkward 22 year-old trying to be cool. The hair, the overbite, and the voice make for this one of my favorite Nicolas Cage characters.
Raising Arizona (The Redneck and The Crazy Person)-
Cage was really on a role in his early 20’s. At 23, Cage played probably one of his most respected roles- H.I. McDunnough. McDunnough, afte rbeing released from jail, marries a barren cop and together they steal a baby.
Why he is so likable: For some reason, Cage just nailed this role. You truly believe that Cage came from a trailer out in the wastelands of Arizona and not from Hollywood royalty. Cage looks like he was born to don a mustache and wife beater. When he see Cage you can just smell him and you immediately want to go take a bath. A trait that Cage has always been good at? Making you, the viewer, feel uncomfortable.
Wild at Heart (The Elvis Impersonator)-
This was Cage’s first and only David Lynch feature and I guess Lynch really wanted him for the role. Based off of the book, “Wild At Heart”, by Barry Gifford, the movie follows the love story and road trip of Sailor Ripley and Lula Fortune (Laura Dern).
Why he is so likable: I’m not going to lie, Nicolas Cage is kind of sexy in this film. I can see why Laura Dern breathes heavily around him in every seen. The way he says, “Pee-nut”, to his lady and his amazing karate dance moves can just make a girl week in the knees. “Did I ever tell ya that this here jacket represent a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom?” Something about that line just seemed so personal. Cage does whatever the hell he wants.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call- New Orleans (The Crazy Person)-
Holy crappola! I saw this movie a few days ago and was completely blown away. Cage plays a cop in post-Katrina New Orleans who goes off of the deep end while trying to solve a murder. In the short span of the movie, Cage’s character likes to indulge in gambling, drugs, hookers, and cutting off oxygen supply to old ladies.
Why he is so likable– This movie is the perfect example of not being able to tell if Cage is doing a horrible or brilliant acting job. He calls and old lady a c*nt and pulls out her oxygen mask! Then tells her that she’s a nuance to her family and America, all the while twitching and limping and pop-eyed. The other thing about this movie is you can’t tell if Cage looks like a mess because of his character or if he just looks like a mess. His doughy face is caked in make up and his strawy hair plugs are starting to join forces with those of John Travolta. If Travolta and Cage did Face Off again, we wouldn’t be able to tell who is who anymore.