Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: Zach Galifianakis Takes On Brad Pitt In Latest 'Between Two Ferns' Plus Louis C.K. Stops By Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: First Trailer For 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron,' Brings Mass Destruction Along With Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Watch: 'Star Wars' Prequels Recut Into 2 Hour 40 Minute 'Turn to the Darkside: Episode 3.1' Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Edward Norton Says He Didn't Return To Play Hulk Because He Wanted More "Diversity" In His Film Roles Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Oscar Buzz: Who Could Be Set For Nods In The Supporting Actress Race? Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Juliette Binoche Says Her Performance In 'Godzilla' Made Quentin Tarantino Cry Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer Listen To Chvrches "Get Away" From The Rescored Version Of Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Drive' Plus Check Out The Trailer The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances The Essentials: The 10 Best Michael Keaton Performances George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" George Lucas Says Studios "Don't Have Any Imagination And Don't Have Any Talent" Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 7 ‘Friendless Child’ Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Spoiler-ific Local News Report On 'Batman v. Superman' That Caused WB To Lauch A Lawsuit Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen Watch: Baz Luhrmann's Chanel No. 5 Short Film "The One That I Want" Starring Gisele Bündchen WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting WTF: Horror Hit 'Annabelle' Yanked From French Theaters Due To Rioting Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Gone Girls And Gone Boys: 11 Films That Dissect Marriage Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

The Films Of Nicolas Cage: A Retrospective

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist April 10, 2014 at 2:00PM

Yes, the career of Nicolas Cage has taken what one can argue is a serious nosedive in recent years. His frightening hairline has become the butt of endless jokes, his personal life is always a mess (he named his son Kal-El after Superman and he's on his third wife), and his take-a-paycheck career choices of late (seemingly endless riffs on "Taken" that barely get theatrical releases, things like "Seeking Justice," "Stolen," "Trespass," and on the way, a reboot of the bonkers Biblical apocalypse flick "Left Behind") have made him an even bigger laughing stock (maybe the tax problems and reported ridiculous spending habits explain these terrible tendencies).
27
The Rock

"The Rock" (1996)
Strange to say, and little did we know it at the time, but this dumb, overblown, ludicrously-plotted film actually represents something of a high spot for the genre and for many of the people involved. OK, saying it’s the best Michael Bay movie is very faint praise, but the combination of Ed Harris as a sympathetic villain, Sean Connery as the twinkly raffish elder lemon, a bunch of great supporting actors (like David Morse and Michael Biehn) as the various marines/SEALS, and Nic Cage as the mild-mannered chemist caught up in a situation way above his pay grade, makes for a great, fun time. We’re treated to one of Cage’s least frenetic, crazy-eyed performances and a film that is by any sensible standards deliriously over the top, but by Bay’s archetypes it's a model of low-key restraint. But mainly “The Rock” is now remarkable for being an enjoyable trip back to what the nostalgic among us may think of as better times, when Nic Cage didn’t have to carry (read "overact in") a film; when Bay restricted himself to threatening just the one U.S/ city with annihilation, rather than several, or the planet, or all of creation; and when Don Simpson was around to keep Jerry Bruckheimer from pussying out and going all PG family fun on us. 1996. Happier times. [B]

Moonstruck
"

Moonstruck" (1987)
Thinking about it now, it sounds positively absurd. Cher and Nicolas Cage in a romantic comedy? But back in the mid-to-late '80s it made perfect sense and resulted in the now classic Norman Jewison-directed love story "Moonstruck." The clever turn by Cage here channels his eccentric energy into the character of Ronny Cammareri, the mutilated bakery chef who lives in the shadow of his brother, with a grudge to spare, but who is also deeply romantic. It's Cage in a very rare role as the everyman heartthrob. And it's the actor's easy charm that allows the story of Loretta (Cher) having an affair with Ronny while being engaged to his brother Jonny (Danny Aiello) have the audience not only sympathize, but root for the coupling. Cage is not just raw masculinity here; he's an opera lover and his wild emotional outbursts ("Chrissy, over on the wall, bring me the big knife. I want to cut my throat.") mark him as both vulnerable and sexy. Yep, those are not words one would associate with Cage today, but with "Moonstruck" the actor delivers both in spades, playing a key part in the wonderful ensemble that makes the film such a pure, romantic (and yes, very funny) pleasure. [A]

Adaptation
"Adaptation"
 (2002)
When some viewers claim they can’t stomach one Nicolas Cage performance, just how do you put out a movie with two of them? Well, back in 2002, Spike Jonze, hot off “Being John Malkovich,” his first collaboration with Charlie Kaufman, attempted just that. Based on Kaufman’s seemingly Kafka-esque endeavor to adapt Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief,” “Adaptation” has Kaufman writing himself writing the script into the script. Did you get all that? In case that complicates things, Kaufman also creates a fictional twin brother, Donald Kaufman, whose dumbfounded idea for a thriller reaps the kind of success the glowering Charlie can only dream of. Now the kicker: Nicolas Cage plays both brothers. And you know what? It’s the kind of performance that few other actors could pull off. Though we know the actor is onscreen in both incarnations through technical trickery, Cage nevertheless makes us care for two disparate characters, nailing Charlie’s labored existential struggles and Donald’s mischievous, laidback existence. It may not be the best Cage performance, as he skews some of Kaufman’s more personal dialogue toward histrionics, but it’s definitely a keeper and bright spot in the dark ages of Cage’s 2000s oeuvre. It also lead to his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor. [B+]
Raising Arizona
"

Raising Arizona" (1987)
It is not humanly possible to discuss the films of Nicolas Cage and not mention the 1987 Coen Brothers comedic masterpiece, "Raising Arizona," which is akin to Robert De Niro's "Raging Bull" or Marlon Brando's "On The Waterfront" in its virtuosity and significance in the actor's career. Cage plays H.I. McDonnough, a recidivist con trying to make a go of it at the straight life with his ex-cop wife (Holly Hunter), but things go awry when she cannot conceive and they hatch an ill-conceived plan to steal a baby from a family that just had quintuplets and probably won't notice one missing lil' critter. While large credit is due to the gutbustingly funny Coen brothers dialogue — "Edwina's insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase" — there's no doubt that Cage imbues every line with either the most nuanced subtlety or the most outrageously funny manic energy (the flick boasts perhaps the best exaggerated facial contortions of all time and Cage's Woody Woodpecker-like hair is a comedic juggernaut unto itself). Ironically, the Coens and Cage butted heads throughout and neither party enjoyed their experience. "Joel and Ethan have a very strong vision and I've learned how difficult it is to accept another artist's vision. They have an autocratic nature," he said at the time and of course has never worked with them since. Regardless, it's one of the funniest movies ever made and Cage tour de force turn is a huge part of its success. [A+]

Matchstick Men
"Matchstick Men" (2003)
In Ridley Scott’s low-key crime drama, based on the Eric Garcia novel of the same name, Cage plays a nutty (what else) thief who is planning a long con with his partner (Sam Rockwell) while at the same time trying to start a relationship with his teenage daughter (an exceptionally good Alison Lohman). Unfortunately, this stylish little movie gets weighed down by an overly elaborate twist ending, but until then the movie happily exists as an emotionally resonant genre piece. Cage never lets his penchant for show-off-y theatricality overshadow the interior complexity of the character, a man with a number of disorders who genuinely wants to see his life get back-on-track and it’s this mentality that leads credence to the tired “one last job” conceit. And it’s because of Cage that the film’s final scenes pack such a surprisingly heartfelt punch. [B+]

This article is related to: Nicolas Cage, Retrospective, Features, Feature, Kick Ass, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates