Recently I had the (dis)pleasure of watching 1998's City of Angels, starring Nicolas Cage as a horny angel with the hots for San Francisco emergency-room doctor Meg Ryan. It's a loathsome, offensive movie, yet I couldn't look away. Plus, it features Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" on the soundtrack, way back when it wasn't a torture tool used to make you cry and donate money to all the sad puppies and kitties.
You get it, Cage is an angel and the song is about an...
Anyhow, City of Angels is full of grand, sweeping tracking shots, people sobbing and Cage in full-tilt puppy-dog mode. It's not until he becomes a real human -- sorry for spoiling a 14-year-old movie for you -- that he becomes the Nicolas Cage we all know and love. Wild-eyed and full of a creepy lust for life that only Cage could emote. If you look close, you can catch Nick Offerman as a construction worker in Angels, too.
While watching it -- I lost the remote and I was in Pink's Pizza coma -- I began wondering about Nic Cage's career track. I have defended him before on Art Attack, and Pete Vonder Haar has detailed his legacy of madness.
Like I said, watching Angels I can see why people hate the guy, people who don't have the patience or time for wacky eyebrows and odd inflection choices. But what movies could I offer would-be Cagers -- that's a name I just made up for people like me -- to change their minds? Okay, I really mean the less batshit-crazy roles, not that H.I. McDunnough is "normal."
The Holy Trinity of The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off are off-limits, by the way. Each movie ticket should have come with a jar of creatine and a hit of ecstasy.
The Weather Man (2005)
Director Gore Verbinski helmed this one in between his Pirates movies with Johnny Depp, opting for cold, familial isolation with Cage. The signature Cage tics come out in just the right moments. Oh, hi, Michael Caine as Cage's dad. Wait, what?
Raising Arizona (1987)
This one almost doesn't count as a Cage movie, since he disappears into the role with such frightening ease. The hair, the accent, the thermal underwear.
National Treasure (2004)
This is as family-friendly as Cage will ever get, unless you count his voice work in Astro Boy and G-Force. But what good is Nicolas Cage, really, as just a voice? The wild eyes and gesticulations are missed so dearly.
The National Treasure series -- a third one is in early development -- made Cage a sympathetic figure for an hour and a half. Anyone could be Ben Gates; no one else could be Terence McDonagh from The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
And after this, there was (almost) no turning back. He followed this up with The Rock, naturally. It was as if he had obtained a magic key to the land of nutjob action films where people fight ex-military commandos and get reversible face transplants like they change pants.
Red Rock West (1993)
Cage as a Texan?? It happened! And Lara Flynn Boyle wasn't wearing a shirt.
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World Trade Center (2006)
Slap a moustache on Nicolas Cage and a Noo Yawk accent and magic happens.