Everyone loves to argue that, over the last decade of so, Nicolas Cage was a great actor making only wise decisions. They love to point to his filmography circa 2005 to present and conclude that, before this unfortunate binge as a play for hire paycheck casher, the award winning star was work smart and role savvy. They highlight his recent pathetic attempts at working within difficult genres—the comic book epic (Ghost Rider), the apocalyptic headscratcher (Knowing), the sci-fi actioner (Next)—and resolve that, prior to some bout of wild child tabloid talentlessness, a pre-middle aged Cage made all the right choices. In turn, they have gone from adoring to apoplectic, hating their one time hero in the process.
In response to such a conclusion, all one can say is…WHAT? If anything, Nicolas Cage has made it his goal, every arduous step of the way, to thwart convention and instill anger. Even during his meteoric rise in the late ‘80s, he would temper success with sidetracks into the weird and eccentric. In fact, scattered throughout his near 25 years in the biz, he’s made as many blunders as brilliant moves. In celebration of the DVD release of one of his worst bank statement supplements—last January’s confused crap Season of the Witch—we look back at the 10 most flagrant film f*ck-ups any actor can claim. If you want clear reasons to hate him, this collection offers conclusive proof. Clearly, Cage always had hack in him. It just took the last few years for it to fully flower.
By this point in his young career, Cage was already commanding lots of legitimate attention. But 1990 would be a transitional year, this excruciatingly bad erotic thriller vying for recognition with the commercial action effort Fire Birds and the David Lynch directed Palme d’Or winner Wild at Heart. Indeed, if there was ever a poor career choice that perfectly illustrates Cage’s typical lack of sound judgment, it would be this one. Even the controversy over the original NC-17 rating couldn’t help what was, essentially, a Cinemax softcore snorefest accented by a weird New Orleans vibe. When your sexual rival is Judge Reinhold, you know you’re in trouble.
When you think about comedy, race relations and bigotry are usually the first things you imagine, right? And when it comes to a couple of on screen funny men, the first names that pop up are Samuel L. Jackson and Nicolas Cage, right? Written and directed by E. Max Frye (who cut his screenplay teeth on Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild), this was supposed to be a subversive look at a very touchy social subject ala Blazing Saddles. Instead, it was a lukewarm lunkheaded experience with our future paycheck casher going through the unnecessary, uneasy motions. The title reference says is all.
Here’s a new low for the already sinking actor—playing third banana to a pair of SNL‘s least successful small to big screen comedians. There’s nothing technically wrong with the Dana Carvey/Jon Lovitz vehicle, that is, if you don’t take into consideration how awkward and unfunny it is. Unlike his work in Raising Arizona, which allowed for a more character based comic criminality, Cage was more the straight man here, stuck watching two less than successful ‘stars’ squirrel around like clueless chipmunks—and nothing is worse than an unfunny farce. From this point forward, he would more or less avoid the comedy genre.
In 1995, Cage’s career hit a massive mainstream milestone when he won the Oscar for Best Actor for his moving portrayal of a suicidal alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas. He follows that up with the Michael Bay winner The Rock (1995), the solid Simon West outing Con Air (1996), and the excellent John Woo actioner Face/Off (1997). So what does he do for an encore? He pisses all over Wim Wender’s magical Wings of Desire with this awful Hollywood remake. Dragging co-star Meg Ryan along for the affront, he aids and abets Brad Siberling (of Caspar and 2009’s Land of the Lost fame), destroying the original’s heart and humanity.
It has a solid premise (a private detective is hired by the widow of a wealthy businessman to find out if a snuff film she found among her late husband’s effects is real) and a cast including Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini and Catherine Keener. The script was even written by Se7en scribe Andrew Kevin Walker. So what went wrong? Well, someone let director Joel Schumacher on the set. Famed for destroying the first franchise fling of a certain Caped Crusader (he was the one that gave Batman nipples), he turned this potential dark journey into porn’s even more perverted underbelly into a gloomy goof.
// Notes from the Road
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