The holidays are over, the New Year has begun, and now it’s time to get down to important business – surveying the year of our Lord Nicolas Cage in 2018.
It’s arguably never been a better time to be a Cageoholic. With a whopping 7 releases hitting screens (and/or VOD) this past year, there was more than enough to satisfy our rabid addiction. Sure, the films themselves may be of wildly varying quality but that’s just part of the fun. And for the first time in years, this ever-evolving Renaissance man edged back into the mainstream public consciousness in a big way.
It is now officially Nicolas Cage’s world – we’re just living in it.
First and foremost, 2018 was the year of Mandy. It was all anybody could talk about, from its festival debuts at Sundance and Cannes right through to its record-breaking theatrical run in the fall and subsequent VOD and Blu-ray popularity, and the hype wasn’t exaggerated. Right from the project’s announcement, we knew the pairing of Beyond the Black Rainbow helmer Panos Cosmatos’s surreal style with Cage’s unhinged antics would probably result in something special, but it was still thrilling to see just how harmonious they complemented each other. Immersed in Cosmatos’s dreamlike hellscape, Cage hadn’t looked this cool in ages and his performance plumbed unexpected psychological depths – laugh all you want at the bathroom scene, but there is some real dark and emotionally affecting acting going on there.
A warped revenge epic for the ages, Mandy wasn’t just the best Nic Cage movie of the year; it was one of the best movies of the year, period.
Cage was riding high on the early buzz for Mandy as well as the January theatrical release of 2017’s festival hit Mom and Dad when this dark psychosexual thriller from director Tim Hunter (River’s Edge) came out. Cage and ‘90s It Girl Robin Tunney star as a couple harbouring past trauma that buys a desert motel where strange things start to happen. Not a bad set-up, and when Cage discovers a secret behind-the-walls set-up that allows him to spy into the rooms, it seems like we’re all strapped in for a pervy-hilarious good time complete with peeping and painful wincing a la 8MM.
And yet all these dark secrets and painful backstories ultimately lead to… nothing at all, with the script petering out in favour of a twist that you can see coming from a mile off. Tunney is wasted and Cage pretty much sleepwalks through this one, despite a few good expressions of surprise whenever he discovers something and a couple of bizarre interactions with the local sheriff who starts sniffing around.
Definitely a dud here. Has Tim Hunter made anything good besides River’s Edge?
The Humanity Bureau
2018 also marked Cage’s first foray into the world of VR, which is great for someone like me who would ideally like to be as close as humanly possible to him for as long as I can. As part of the marketing push for this sci-fi thriller that dropped in April, a series of side stories were created specifically for the Oculus Rift that let you get up close and personal with the legend himself. I do not have or know anyone who has an Oculus Rift so if someone could hook me up with that ASAP, it would be much appreciated.
As for the movie itself, it’s a pretty generic dystopian flick but not without its pleasures. Cage plays a bounty hunter who hunts down citizens that can’t contribute to society in a near-future America decimated by economic recession and global warming. When he finds out what really happens to these people once he hands them off to his superiors, however, he has a change of heart, abandoning his assignment to help a mother and son escape to Canada (jarring, since it was all clearly shot in Canada), while his former bounty hunter friends (including a villainous eye-patch wearing Hugh Dillon) chase behind.
Come for the wild-eyed and sort of heartfelt Cage performance, stay for the cheap CGI futureworld landscapes and hilariously blunt social commentary.
The L.A bank heist in Heat is one of the greatest movie sequences of all time. 211 seems to try and emulate that but set in small town Chesterford, USA (actually Bulgaria) for 1/50 of the budget.
Cage plays an aging cop whose wife recently died of cancer and whose partner is his son-in-law whose married to his daughter who just found out she’s pregnant but she’s not talking to her dad right now because he’s been emotionally unavailable since her mom died. Anyways, Cage and his son-in-law and all of this emotional baggage and also a random high school student on a ride along with them end up smack dab in the middle of a local bank heist orchestrated by some trigger-happy mercenary dudes. Can. The. Stakes. Get. Any. Higher?
To his credit, director York Shackleton (who apparently used to be a pro snowboarder and popularized a move called the “rodeo flip”?) throws a ton of gunfire and real explosions at us to keep things lively, but unfortunately not much else. Cage seems fairly laissez-faire about the whole situation, since I guess he knows that no matter how many faceless cops and bystanders get picked off, all the main players make it out okay in the end, culminating in an absurdly funny happy ending (spoiler alert I guess, but come on…).
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
For a guy who hadn’t done any voice work since The Croods (but let’s not forget his prior turn as Speckles the mole in G-Force), Cage somehow managed supporting roles in not just one, but two of the most loved animated films of the year. More importantly, he finally got to fulfill a life-long dream by playing Superman in Teen Titans. He even brought his 13-year old son Kal-El along for the ride to voice the role of young Bruce Wayne, naturally begging the question: did Superman father Batman?
In any case, I’m happy for him. Still would love to see that live-action Superman movie happen though. Why don’t I run DC again?
Nicolas Cage is like Santa Claus in that he keeps giving and giving. And this year, he made sure to drop a special little gift under our trees with the release of this bonkers supernatural sex dramedy just a few days before Christmas. If you thought Mandy was wild, wait till you see the shenanigans that he gets up to in this.
Cage puts his best greasy trucker outfit on as Joe (reminiscent of the Joe from Joe, but more pathetic), a down-and-out dude whose wife died in a tragic accident (marking the third time this year that Cage has had a dead wife/partner in his films). Once he meets Franka Potente’s Julie, who has the ability to see dead people and go “between worlds”, he gets excited about the possibility of contacting his former lover, but they end up falling into a sudden, torrid affair together instead. Through a series of amazingly convoluted events, however, the spirit of Joe’s wife possesses the spirit of Julie’s barely 20-something daughter, who proceeds to come on to him every chance she gets.
What follows are numerous scenes of Cage enthusiastically getting it on with three different women (including his wife in flashbacks). Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him have as much sex in a movie before. It’s about as disturbing as you’d imagine.
What makes this all even more interesting is that writer-director Maria Pulera is apparently making a David Lynch movie here too, somehow enlisting Angelo Badalamenti to do the main theme and then getting her composers to fill the rest of the film with a score that sounds exactly like Twin Peaks and even using Marilyn Manson’s rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” at a key moment, a la Lost Highway. Add in the woodsy setting and surreal dream sequences and you’ve got yourself a bizarrely bad Lynchian facsimile. For his part, Cage commits fully and admirably to all this weirdness, even getting meta in a moment that I’m sure will be studied in classrooms decades from now where Joe reads aloud from a book with the title “Nicolas Cage’s Memories”. Huh?
What a treat to end off the year. As they say around the holidays, “every time a Nic Cage movie drops, an angel gets its wings”. Or something like that.
2019 and beyond
Where does our Holiness stand then after a busy 2018? Probably in the best place he has in years.
The VOD train shows no sign of slowing down, with several dumb-looking action-thrillers on the horizon (including one amazing project called Primal, which will see him face off with deadly Amazonian animals that have been released on a freighter ship in the middle of the ocean).
But Mandy gave him back cult credibility on a larger scale and will no doubt present him with more interesting offers, as in the recent announcement of Prisoners of the Ghostland, which will see him team up with Japanese madman Sion Sono.
So buckle up, everybody. As Castor Troy once famously sang, “I’m reaaddddyyyy. Ready for the big ride, baaaaaaabbyyyyyy…”