I have passed the halfway point. Bittersweet. The Nic Cage dreams have started to become recurring. Troubling? Not yet. Gimme a few more weeks. Some of my favorites came this week. Some real nostalgia bombs. Also some ones I was dreading. Comparatively dreading. I found myself pleasantly surprised though, which I’ve found happens more and more often. Save for 1 or 2, I really haven’t disliked any of the first 35. I honestly can’t tell whether that’s because they’re all pretty good, or if I’ve somehow developed an immunity to disliking Nic Cage. At this point, he seems like an old friend or something. Is that weird? Let’s review.
Day 29: Face/Off (1997) – Dir. John Woo
It’s a movie. A high budget, successful movie. Where they cut a guy’s face off. And put it on another guy’s face. And I love it. Definitely John Woo’s best work. So many doves. Cage and Travolta are both fantastic. Cage goes super hard in the beginning of the film, when he’s still Castor Troy. When he asks the flight attendant to suck his tongue. So glorious. But when they switch, that’s when shit gets really real. They really do play each other terrifically. Almost to the point where it actually seems as though each is inhabiting the other’s body. Plus, there’s like a whole futuristic prison movie thrown in the middle. And a boat chase. And Cage on a shitload of drugs.
Day 30: City Of Angels (1998) – Dir. Brad Silberling
This was definitely one of the movies that I was…well, let’s say, less than psyched about watching. Never been a huge Meg Ryan guy, and I definitely have bad memories about that goddamn Goo Goo Dolls song. But, y’know, it wasn’t all bad really. I just like to think of it as some sort of documentary, with Nic Cage going around doing all his angelic duties and whatnot. Then Dennis Franz gets naked and that’s sort of a low point. It also has one of the dumbest deaths I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Meg Ryan just rides her bike into a truck. Like, it’s not even moving. She just spaces out and hits it and dies. Then Nic Cage eats a pear. For the first time ever!
Day 31: Snake Eyes (1998) – Dir. Brian De Palma
Boy howdy the opening 15 minutes of this movie is fucking awesome. It’s an uninterrupted shot following Cage’s crooked Atlantic City cop Rick Santoro (“I’m RICKY!”) as he parades through a casino in the leadup to a boxing match, beating up lowlifes for money, yelling at the fighters, placing irresponsible bets, juggling his wife and mistress, and generally acting like a wonderful shithead. Cage plays airheaded but determined very well. The whole movie is good actually until, as my friend so eloquently put it, “the last 20 or 30 minutes spray poop all over your brain.” Which is pretty true. But it’s got young super-hot Carla Gugino as well as a reptilian intense Gary Sinise. Cage gets beat the shit out of and has a humorously swollen face.
Day 32: 8mm (1999) – Dir. Joel Schumacher
If this movie were 30 minutes shorter it would be a lot better. Schumacher’s bloated (what a surprise, coming from him…) tale of a PI’s descent into the dark world of hardcore porn and snuff is not as bad as people make it out to be. This is definitely a minimal Cage performance, but he handles it well. James Gandolfini, Joaquin Phoenix, and Chris Bauer (in a tiny role) are all really good though.
It’s always nice to see Gandolfini play someone who isn’t Tony Soprano. In a weird twist, it’s also got a small cameo from Norman Reedus, who will later go on to star in John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, which is an almost ludicrously identical twin to 8mm. It’s got a good soundtrack too. “Come To Daddy” plays over the climactic scene. Nice.
Day 33: Bringing Out The Dead (1999) – Dir. Martin Scorsese
I’ve always said that Sweet Smell Of Success is the best New York movie ever, and I’ll stand by that, but seeing Bringing Out The Dead again reminded me how close to the top of that list, and how stunningly underrated and under-watched, it is. Scorsese’s hallucinatory portrait of nighttime in his city through the eyes of it’s EMT’s is incredible. The performances are great across the board, from the reliably amazing (Cage, John Goodman, Ving Rhames) to the surprising (Marc Anthony, Cliff Curtis), and the just plain deranged (Tom Sizemore. Duh.). Three scenes in particular stand out as just un-fuck-with-able.
First: Cage and Goodman fail to save a young homeless immigrant girl on the street who has a heart attack in the middle of a snowstorm. Scorsese shot it with the actors moving in reverse, then played it in reverse, so the snow flies up from the ground and foggy breath pulls into peoples lungs. Stunning. Second: Cage and the bloodied, insane Noel (Anthony) try to save a young gang member (Michael K Williams) who’s bleeding out in the back of the ambulance. Finally: Cage holds onto a delirious drug dealer (Curtis) and they look out over the screaming, dirty city as firemen use a welder to try to free him from the balcony railing he is impaled on. The sparks slowly turn into violent fireworks over the black metropolis. Love this movie.
Day 34: Gone In 60 Seconds (2000) – Dir. Dominic Sena
Pretty much just not a lot going on here. There’s like 25 people with actual roles in this movie but it feels kind of completely empty. Cage really does nothing, though his name is Memphis Raines so that’s pretty good. It just kind of…sucks I guess. Angelina’s in it for like 15 minutes maybe, which I don’t remember being the case. Giovanni Ribisi has like the dumbest accent ever it’s crazy. Chi McBride and Delroy Lindo are alright. Christopher Eccleston’s villain is obsessed with wood. Vinnie Jones doesn’t talk. Scott Caan has mutton chops. See? Everyone’s in this movie. Guess they tried to recapture that Con Air magic but…definitely did not work out that way. Cage, this one’s your Eleanor.
Day 35: The Family Man (2000) – Dir. Brett Ratner
Cage does It’s A Wonderful Life. I suppose I can deal with that. Inexplicably directed by Brett Ratner, The Family Man ain’t all that shitty. Well, it’s kinda shitty. Cage is actually good though, I swear. When his billionaire character suddenly finds himself living the life of a middle class suburban father, the movie doesn’t pull any punches with his disappointment, which is refreshing. He fully tries to abandon his family which was sort of funny. Also funny, he spends the whole movie bonding with his daughter in the alterna-world or whatever, but then when he gets back to the real world the kids are never mentioned or implied to even exist. Like, are those kids dead now? That always bothered me at the end of Jumanji as well, when the kids don’t recognize Robin Williams. Let downs yo.
So, here we are, 5 weeks later, 5 weeks older. Perhaps 5 weeks wiser? We’ll see. Adaptation. next week. Yay! It’s hard to tell whether this process is going faster or slower than I thought it would. It sure is going though.