When we started ‘Cage Wisdom’ at the beginning of October we envisioned this would be a blog with niche appeal like a blog about orange juice, Snoopy or Microsoft Excel. I mean sure, who hasn’t sipped a nice tall glass of OJ, stuffed a unsharpened HB into a Snoopy pencil case or kicked back with some friends, a pack of bud light and ‘had a whirl at Excel’? Similarly, who hasn’t seen Cage sport a thrush muffler or wear John Travolta’s face at the multiplex? Yet how many people care enough about these things to read, Citrus ‘R’ Us, Snoopy’s Groupies, Excelibur or Cage Wisdom? Orange juice, Snoopy, Microsoft Excel and Nicolas Cage all hold mass appeal and niche appeal simultaneously. OR SO WE THOUGHT!!!
Because, while we haven’t actually broken through the ’30 views a day’ glass ceiling, it seems like these days all eyes are swivelling as if on wheelie-chairs towards Cage, or more specially, youtube viral sensation ‘Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit’. In lieu of any proper reviews as I await the anticipated arrival of Neil Lebute’s maligned, misunderstood, ursinological remake of The Wicker Man, let’s give this sweary little shout-a-thon a little not totally undue attention.
When I used to perform in York’s premier and only improvised comedy troupe The Shambles we had a game we didn’t often play called ‘Requiem for a Shamble’. This game was heavily inspired by the plot and tone of Darren Aronofsky’s 2000 addiction melodrama Requiem for a Dream, in which some people take some drugs and then find that, unbeknownst to them, they’ve been living in a 16th century anti-drugs morality play and so Things Get Really Bad through a series of events that waggishly defy any sense of causal logic. Accompanying the Bad Things Clint Mansell’s soundtrack broods and lurches through an auditory purgatory of violin crescendos and drones of evil portent. Here it is below:
For the Shambles game we asked the audience for something that our protagonist could be addicted to and after we had fielded the usual screaming chants of SSSEEEEXXXXXXEEXCXE ZX and DILDDILOOOEEEEASSSSSSS we usually settled on something funny and banal like an addiction to magnets or flickbooks or rye bread. The scene would then play out with the life of the poor addled Shamble narrated dispassionately as they lurched from one sordid scene of desperate backstreet rye bread eating/ flickbook flicking/ magnet polarization to the next, until the scene reached its tragical apex. In the case of the girl who was addicted to flickbooks, her thumbs had to be surgically removed because of repetitive strain injury. But the icing on the comedy cake was that while this awful climax played Mansell’s Lux Aeterna would be playing seriously, somberly in the background. The dramatic, heavy sounding music was juxtaposed against the flippancy of the overwrought acting and from thence the hilarity arose. Now cast yer sightballs at this:
Sterling viewing! Watching Cage punch, scream and gesticulate wildly through his film career is funny, especially if he is dressed as a bear, but I feel that the music sacrifices some fine acting at the altar of lol. Some of the scenes featured in the video’s quick-fire montage of Caged madness are genuinely moving (Wild At Heart, Adaptation), frightening (Bringing Out the Dead) or intentionally humorous (Vampire’s Kiss) in context, but the music always tips things toward the ludicrous. Also, through placing genuine masterpieces next to shoddier fare, ‘Nicolas Cage Loses His Shit’ creates a continuum of unhinged masculinity, which obscures the more nuanced work that the excerpted films also exhibit.
For, it is a specific strain of Cage on display here, rather than a more general overview of his work. Since Cage is such an idiosyncratic actor it is tempting to see his career as such a series of quirks… Cageisms, as we at ‘Cage Wisdom’ have coined them. However, the viral video doesn’t focus on the pear plucking, jellybean eating, Carpenters listening that we find so charming, but on the seismic expressions of rage launched into by some of his most manic creations. There is some variety in the yelping and hollering; Peter Loew in the Vampire’s Kiss segments flops himself about like an angry, unhinged puppet; you can’t see Edward Malus’ face from underneath his bear mask, but you can bet he’s scowling seriously; while Eddie from Deadfall, who is highly present here, is foul and slobbering as a pitbull trying to have sex with a dead pigeon.
To tell the truth, Deadfall is the only Nic Cage film I have genuine apprehension about watching, since it seems unpleasant in a skeezy, dirty way that it sure to leave me feeling a lil’ OCD. However, it crops up 6 times here, the most along with Vampire’s Kiss. The Wicker Man comes just behind those two. Maybe this is simply because they find Cage at his most furrowed and clenched, but I being a fretty fretty fretwork can’t help but fear it also has something to do with the fact that in these films there is a sizeable amount of Cage shouting at women.
Now, before all of you who were hoping to make a husband/ wife outta Cage leave in disgust, sit on down and give me a minute. I don’t wish to condemn our mutual friend for being in any of these roles (Deadfall potentially notwithstanding) – I have a warped place in my heart for The Wicker Man remake. Yet outside of their justifying narratives in which they play a part in the moral downfall of a character, these scenes become simplified to the level of meme; endemic of an insidious kind of ‘post-ethical’ thinking characterised by 4chan, Family Guy and the youtube comments section. So, when user ‘rekrapnaht’ writes, “I like the part where he punches women”, irony is flattened to a point where we can’t tell if he means:
1.) The inverse of the sentence – he *doesn’t* like Nic Cage punching woman and since only a person of low moral fibre would enjoy this, we laugh at the brazen idea of someone enjoying it.
2.) He doesn’t really ‘like’ the scenes of women punching, but they are “deliciously un-PC” entertainment. It’s wrong to laugh at women being punched, but it’s funny because it’s wrong. This is known officially as the “Jimmy Carr response” even though Jimmy Carr himself sometimes pretends to be doing 1.)
3.) He enjoys watching women being punched. Literally.
I think most people have some truck with no. 1.) Some people, those who probably like political correctness a lot less than me, would be alright with no. 2.) Any sane person would say that no. 3.) means a person is essentially evil.
Now, at this point, most people would say, “Adam, you’ve written over 1,000 words about a video entitled ‘Nicolas Cage Loses His Shit’, you’re an English lit. student… on crack! Stop over-analysing!” In response to that I would say that you think what you think because you didn’t breast feed enough as a baby and this has led you to project feelings of frustration that you feel about yourself, onto me and my over-analysis. But basically, I just don’t want the internet-going public’s appreciation of Cage to boil down to a semi-ironic smirking over his most macho moments taken out of context. Sure, these moments are still compelling and mostly funny, because Cage is amazing, but really you need to see the whole film, not the clips, to appreciate the divine plan of Nicolas “blue eyes” Cage, a man who is not always angry.
Cage himself has remained stoically sober about the whole affair, saying the following in an interview posted on the lovely Cage appreciation forum ‘Cage alot Castle’:
“I think it’s exciting. I want people to discover my movies and however they chose to receive it is their business. I can’t help but be a little flattered by it and thankful for it.”
Can you really imagine such a sweet, earnest response coming from the mouth of a violent bear?
P.S. If you would like to discuss Nicolas Cage with like-minded individuals, please join: