Extreme Highs and Lows: The Career of Nicolas Cage

1/13/2011 Posted by Admin

Extreme highs and lows: The career of Nicolas Cage


By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

On Jan. 7, when Nicolas Cage turned 47, it also happened to be the day Relativity Media unleashed “Season of the Witch” upon the world. It was as though the distributor decided to celebrate Cage’s birthday by giving audiences -- and Cage’s career -- a cinematic kick to the nuts. Happy birthday, Nic!

But this is nothing new for Cage. He stars in so many of these movies -- the films that make you question certain studios’/filmmakers’ sanity -- that my reaction to “Season of the Witch” was surprisingly blase. I’ve simply shrugged it off, wagged my finger at the actor and said “Oh, Nic, you’ve done it again.”

Yet, it would be unfair, however, to solely judge Cage’s career on the “Season of the Witches” or “Bangkok Dangerouses.” Cage, who has become a polarizing actor audiences either love or hate -- mostly hate -- has had so many great performances in well-received movies. It’s a shame that they get overshadowed by, well, “Season of the Witch.”

It was “Leaving Las Vegas” that really got the ball rolling for Cage. Yes, he had a number of successful movies (“Raising Arizona,” “Wild at Heart” and the appropriately titled “Kiss of Death”) before Mike Figgis’ 1995 Oscar-nominated picture for which Cage won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Like most Oscar winners, Cage knew exactly what he wanted to do after his big win and critical success -- blow stuff up. And he did just that. In 1996, he took the lead in Michael Bay’s “The Rock” as a neurotic scientist who doesn’t care for cursing

So, he made “The Rock” and got the action hero out of his system. Or did he?

Cage followed up in 1997 with his “double-action album” with Simon West’s “Con Air” and John Woo’s “Face/Off,” both of which were incredibly ridiculous and equally enjoyable. In other words: It’s ’97 and we’re still with you, Nic.

Over the next few years, he made a few shoulder-shruggers in “City of Angels,” “Snake Eyes” and “8MM,” all of which performed fairly well at the box office and received mixed or poor reviews.

Glossing over Scorsese’s “Bringing Out the Dead,” we’ll skip to 2000’s “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” which was directed by Dominic Sena (who also made “Season of the Witch”).  Essentially, it was a pretty weak attempt to recapture what he had in ’96/97. It didn’t work, but he went down in flames with co-stars Robert Duvall and Angelina Jolie. Not bad company.

In 2001, Cage hit a career low trying to pull off an Italian accent in John Madden’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” It was mostly just embarrassing. In 2002, his second time out with John Woo in “Windtalkers” was pretty poorly received, but he bounced back with an Academy Award nomination for a brilliant performance in “Adaptation.” It’s easily one of the actor’s best performances.

He followed “Adaptation” with another great character in Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men.” In 2003, things seem to be going well for Nic. Maybe a little too well.

The calm before the storm came in the form of the box-office powerhouse “National Treasure,” followed by “Lord of War,” “The Weather Man” and “World Trade Center,” the three of which were all fairly well received.

But it was 2006 when things really got out of hand. The release of Neil LaBute’s “The Wicker Man” (love Lebute, but the movie, not so much) and 2007’s “Ghost Rider,” within months of each other, was the dagger in Cage’s career. In his defense, who wouldn’t want to work with Neil LaBute? And who wouldn’t want to portray a bad-ass hero like Ghost Rider? But it just wasn’t in the cards for Cage, and they were far worse than anyone could have predicted.

From there, Cage’s career has been a whirlwind of hit or miss -- and you generally know in advance which ones will hit and which will miss. “Next,” “National Treasure Book of Secrets,” “Bangkok Dangerous” mark a streak of drivel from Nic. “Knowing,” a film from Alex Proyas, did better than expected at the box office and even garnered a four-star review from Roger Ebert, although many critics disagreed.

Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” helped re-establish Cage’s credibility, and his performance in “Kick-Ass” was one of the film’s highlights. And then he went and ruined everything with “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (not too bad) and now, “Season of the Witch,” a dark cloud over this cold January.

I believe that underneath all of that shrieking about bees in “The Wicker Man,” or that terrible Italian accent in “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” that there is a genuinely talented actor in Nicolas Cage. He just chooses to come out when he wants to, and I guess that’s just something I’ve learned to accept.

Nicolas Cage’s next movie is “Drive Angry 3D,” in theaters Feb. 25. Any thoughts?

Also, take the time to admire some of Cage’s best scenes in “The Wicker Man.”

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