If you’ve watched any movies in the past thirty years, chances are you’ve seen at least one featuring Nicolas Cage. In 2014, I watched more movies featuring Nicolas Cage than movies not featuring Nicolas Cage . . . on purpose. After “Cage Raging” for 12 months, I have still only glimpsed a small portion of the nearly eighty movies Nicolas Cage has acted in since 1981.
Around this time last year, my friends and I opened a package at a holiday party sent to us from Afghanistan by a mutual friend stationed there with the U.S. Army. Under an array of colorful pashmina scarves, we discovered Nicolas Cage’s face staring up at us from the bottom of the box.
Our initial shock was followed by confusion and glee as we realized our friend had sent us a “Nicoalse (sic) Cage All Movies Collection” box set. The exact provenance of this particular box is indeterminate, however, it contains twenty-five plain DVDs with handwritten numbers, which you can draw your own conclusions about.
Although there is a long list of titles on the outside of the box, we never knew which movies to expect on each disc. Most marathoners opt for the Cage cult classics, such as The Wicker Man, Con Air or Face/Off, which feature Cage at his rage-y-ist. But we diligently sat through blockbuster movies (National Treasure), kids’ movies (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and movies that didn’t even appear to have Cage in them (Grindhouse).
It wasn’t until we encountered Captain Corelli’s Mandolin that we finally broke down and watched the majority of the film on fast-forward. For this slow-moving period film, watching Cage move and speak at double speed was not so different from the Cage we had come to know and love in other films. See the video below for supercut of Cage’s notable freak-outs (warning: contains explicit language).
I am embarrassed to admit that for many years I considered Nicolas Cage to be one of my favorite actors. The early Cage classic, Raising Arizona by the Coen Brothers has always been one of my favorite films. Cast as an incompetent petty-thief-turned-earnest-baby-snatcher, Cage shines. As a youngin' I also saw Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married and Moonstruck, playing similarly ungainly young men.
Bless my parents for shielding me from his lesser works for as long as they could. Eventually, I was exposed to trailers for his bigger blockbuster hits like Gone in Sixty Seconds, Ghost Rider and Bangkok Dangerous, which cleared things up quickly.
When I learned Cage was the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, everything seemed to make sense . . . for a brief moment. When I was faced with such anomalies as Adaptation, I was forced to reconsider my stance once again. Since then, I have come to appreciate the inconsistency of Cage’s tenacious and prolific career.
According to IMDB, Cage’s trademark is playing “flamboyant and/or eccentric characters.” The director, David Lynch, called him the “jazz musician of acting.” Cage has described his own acting style as “nouveau shamanic,” and “western kabuki.” He elaborates on the former style in the video below.
For as many hours as we watched Cage’s movies, my friends and I spent just as many evenings debating how intentional Cage’s techniques have been. Some of us would prefer to believe his entire career has been an elaborate form of meta performance art. Others believe that his acting expresses a latent insanity bubbling up to the surface.
The television show, Community, tackled this subject in its fifth season, when its characters took a two-day course titled, “Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad?” The movie-obsessed character, Abed says, “Nicolas Cage is one of pop culture’s greatest mysteries,” and becomes determined to find an answer to the course’s question. His professor warns him not to engage in any marathons or to watch more than five Cage movies. When he disregards this advice, you can see what happens in the clip below. Watch the entire episode for the full Cage exploration.
Delving into a world populated with Cage movies, memes, references and fan art, I even began dreaming about good ol’ Nic. In one such dream I had the opportunity to interview him and ask him all my pressing questions. In many ways this dream was more coherent than any of my experiences with Cage thus far. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that the more you learn about Cage, the less you know.
Luckily, the Internet is a fertile ground for Cage’s persona. There is a Reddit forum dedicated to Cage under the title, “One True God,” with nearly 80,000 “Believers.” For a list of Cage’s movies, visit IMBD. To see another person’s systematic attempt to make it through Cage’s filmography, visit “Unlocking the Cage” on Tumblr.