' ' Cinema Romantico: Top 5 Nicolas Cage Performances

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Top 5 Nicolas Cage Performances

I did not necessarily mean for this week to turn into Nic Cage week, but here we are. Because I really wanted to write about Cage’s purportedly transitory (but not really) “The Trust” on the heels of writing about Cage’s “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and, hey, one thing led to another, I scribbled my five favorite Cage turns on a Post-it and decided to post. I mean, why not? When on blogger… A couple notes: 1.) “Pig” is not included. It’s a great performance, perhaps Top 5 worthy, but just barely a year old and as such, in need of more time for reflection. 2.) I still adore “Leaving Las Vegas,” it’s fantastic, and Cage in it, don’t misunderstand, but I’ve always considered Shue the true MVP there, and anyway, let’s talk some Cage turns that aren’t the ones that won the Oscar.

Note: these are not ranked, and in something like spiritual order as opposed to alphabetical order.

Moonstruck. The key Cage performative text, I’ve come to realize, in so much as he is going over the top, just like the opera you see his character attend, and which has frequently informed his turns to varying degrees and in different ways ever since, leading boring people who demand believability in all mythical flickering images to not grasp that Cage is the most prominent modern-day tenor of the movies.

The Weather Man. In his air, the Long Beach-born Cage finds the key of a Chicago winter, moving and wearing the weary expressions of a Windy City denizen in late April where there is still a goddam chance of snow.  

Raising Arizona. Some movie performances are in and of themselves special effects, like Vincent D’Onofrio in “Men in Black,” like Anne Baxter in “The Ten Commandments,” and like Nic Cage in “Raising Arizona.” Indeed, in rewatching the whole Coen Bros. oeuvre during the lockdown part of the Pandemic, Friend of the Blog Willie noted that in “Raising Arizona” Cage turned himself into a Looney Tone, which is a more evocative description of Cage’s astonishing physical expressiveness in the second Coen brothers movie than I could ever hope to devise and meaning that Cage homages Wiley E. Coyote by defying gravity in his own way, effecting gestures and mannerisms and movements that couldn’t possibly be effected by a real person until you remind yourself that what you’re watching isn’t animated.

Kick-Ass. As the superhero father to a superhero daughter, Cage strikes a resonant, profound balance between nobility and hubris, between genuine paternal protection and being blind to his own  fatherly heedlessness. 

Red Rock West. In John Dahl’s 1993 neo-noir, Cage is reading his character’s swaggering, cigarette-smoking Cool not as charismatic indifference but a total bluff of desperation.

Mandy. “Wait,” you’re saying, “this is a top five and isn’t this number six?” Yes, astute reader, it is, and what of it? You think Nic Cage would concoct a Top 5 bound by its own specified limits? 2 is 1, 11 is 7, 6 is 5, and in “Mandy” Cage translated the Italian opera of “Moonstruck” into Italian horror, avenging his wife with a soulful anguish that skillfully builds to a concluding scene where his sears-into-your-brain unhinged facial expression sends the notion of cosmic law and order up in flames.

Leaving Las Vegas. You know what, I changed my mind. I can’t leave this out. 7 is 5, and 7 +5 is 12, and 12 is the number of divine authority, or so Google tells me. 

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