At this point in his 40-plus-year career, Nicolas Cage has appeared in more than 100 movies and television shows. That makes Keith Phipps’ achievement with his new book all the more impressive.
Bent Cage Age: Four decades of Hollywood through a singular career, examines each of those many Nicolas Cage films, considers the mercurial actor’s place in film history, and uses it as a lens through which to view the myriad changes in American cinema since the early 1980s. a tremendously entertaining and really insightful book; You’ll never look at a googly-eyed Nic Cage the same way ever again.
cage age It also gave me a great excuse to catch up with Keith, who was my old boss at the lamented website The Dissolve (RIP). Instead of just repeating the same questions he’s gotten in other interviews, I asked if he’d be willing to pick a couple of underrated Nicolas Cage movies that he could recommend and that we could discuss as microcosms of Cage’s larger work. He complied with three good options; what follows is our conversation about cage age and each of their selections.
The concept of his book is reminiscent of the Career View pieces we used to do at The Dissolve, where someone would watch every movie an actor had appeared in and then write about all of them together. Critics tend to write about directors this way, but it’s much less common with movie stars. What do you think can be gleaned from this kind of approach to writing about actors?
Not to get too deep into the minutiae of his and my career, but the book actually started out as a Career View article. It has some roots there, because I had just started watching some movies when The Dissolve closed. Obviously I didn’t go through with it, but I was talking about book ideas and I was really seeing Mandy in the theater that kind of stuff gelled for me. Obviously, I had seen many Nicolas Cage movies, but found it useful to review them. I mainly saw them chronologically. There are a couple of exceptions here and there.
But I think part of why it’s easier to do that with directors is that directors tend to be less prolific. It takes longer to direct a movie than to act in one. It’s not that one job is easier than the other, but Nicolas Cage can make a bunch of movies in a year, whereas most directors can’t. I was dealing with I think close to a hundred movies. So that’s a lot to take in.
It’s a bigger project, but I found it really enlightening. If nothing else, just to watch someone age for 40 years. Of course, he is a very well preserved person, but he is a fascinating experiment in himself. But what I expected and what I think turned out was kind of a double image of his career and then the changes in the entire Hollywood industry since 1982.
Every time I’ve done projects like this, albeit on a much smaller scale than yours, I’m fascinated by the personal elements of an actor’s life that crop up movie after movie and that you start to see once you really look for them. . Did you find any of those in Cage’s papers?
Part of what makes Cage interesting is I feel like there are a couple of movies at his personal nadir, like after the financial stuff came out and it became kind of a running gag and he starts making movies because he has debts that to pay. The first two years there are, you know, movies like Left behind and Fury, which I think is the worst film he has ever made. And it seems a bit unprotected. But what I find that makes it interesting is that he fully commits to what he’s doing in almost every other instance that he can point to. It really tries to see where it fits into any given project.
Sometimes that’s a bit contradictory and maybe it doesn’t always work. I was thinking about the movie gone in 60 seconds. It’s the worst of his action movies. And he likes a cool, low-key performance more from Steve-McQueen-than-Steve-McQueen. And it just doesn’t work at all. It’s not really what you’re looking for, but it’s an interesting choice. I feel like he’s always trying to bring his own to whatever he’s doing in a very thoughtful way that is often overlooked when talking about Nicolas Cage.
There are definitely some biographical echoes in some movies. part of what he does The rock interesting is that Stanley Goodspeed doesn’t want to be an action hero, kind of like Cage was in his career as well. He’s a very unlikely action movie star, and he’s playing someone who resists being an action hero in that. So there’s a bit of that.
PigI don’t know what the creative process behind that was, but it certainly ties into his life and career in some interesting ways. I mean, he’s playing a character who was a star in his field and who went to live in the wild for a while for various reasons. And now he’s slowly receding. He’s made some really good movies over the last decade, during which he’s done a lot of direct-to-VOD stuff. But PigIt has become just that: your ticket out of the desert somehow. It was such an undeniably great performance in a really interesting movie that a lot of people had to question his preconceptions about what Nicolas Cage was as an actor and what he did.
Okay, so let’s talk about your picks for underrated Cage movies. I found it interesting that you chose three police movies. Do you think there is something about Cage that makes him particularly suitable for crime stories?
I think he’s a very good film noir hero in some ways, because you can see him as someone who could end up on the seedy side of things. But I think he’s also very good at playing normal guys who go too far. In terms of crime in general, I think if you look at the race, he is a proven candidate in some respects. Going back to at least raising arizona, this is someone who ends up many times on the wrong side of the law. There is definitely a history there.
Underrated Nicolas Cage Movies
Age of Cage: four decades of Hollywood through a singular career is for sale now.
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