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By Jake Watt
10th August 2018

I know some poor, miserable souls who refuse to watch a movie if it stars Nicolas Cage.

These myopic individuals made the mistake of viewing Cage as a terrible actor, rather than a supremely gifted one who makes some puzzling choices (until bankruptcy became the clear catalyst for his roles).

I'll say over and over how they're robbing themselves of the pleasures of ‘Valley Girl’, ‘Wild at Heart’, ‘Moonstruck’, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’, ‘Adaptation’, that one where he’s a medieval knight, and countless others. Hell, he single-handedly transformed the ‘National Treasure’ franchise from insultingly stupid into an entertainingly weird series of almost-movies. Cage acts in ways that can't be explained by the demands of the character, and performs in a way that constantly calls attention to its own performance-ness.

Anti-naturalism, if you will.

Of course, there is also the slightest possibility that Nicolas Cage is actually a terrible actor, but I like to think that all of Cage’s “hilariously bad” performances are wonderful turns by an alchemical performer, transmuting boring crap into unforgettable crap.

That's magic, baby.

The Melbourne International Film Festival is hosting a Cage-a-Thon on Friday, August 10th at 9:30pm at the historic Astor Theatre, and it’ll run well into Saturday morning.

Showcasing an acting masterclass of old, new, and classic Cage, it spans 13 years - from his eccentric early critically acclaimed work, to the writhing self-parody of his modern output.

Below, you’ll find a rating for each of the films in order of appearance on the program, as well as a vague guideline for when you should take a toilet break or get some more drinks...

Mandy (2018)
Director: Panos Cosmatos
Synopsis: The year is 1983 and Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) has fallen deeply for the deceptively charming Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough). However, the life he has made for himself comes crashing down suddenly and horrifyingly, when a vile band of ravaging cultists and supernatural creatures desecrate his idyllic home with vicious fury. Two hours of gory, demonic chainsaw fights ensue!
Review: This has yet to be released in Australia, but Cage is a lunatic and Panos Cosmatos’ previous film, ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’, was some 80s sci-fi craziness. ‘Mandy’ is also one of the last films scored by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (‘Sicario’, ‘Arrival’), so that’s cool.
Rating: TBC

Raising Arizona (1987)
Director: Joel Coen
Synopsis: Cage stars as H.I. "Hi" McDunnough, an ex-convict who is married to Edwina "Ed" McDunnough (Holly Hunter), a former police officer. Desperate for a baby, Ed and Hi kidnap one of the Arizona Quints, sons of locally famous furniture magnate Nathan Arizona.
Review: This blue collar comedy is Cage’s (intentionally) funniest film and he gives a perfectly modulated over-the-top performances as a not-so-bright, slack-jawed, white trash career crook. It’s also the funniest Coen brothers film by a mile. Trivia: when he arrived on set, and at various other points during production, Cage offered suggestions to the Coen brothers, which they ignored.
Rating: 5/5

Red Rock West (1993)
Director: John Dahl
Synopsis: Michael Williams (Nicolas Cage) is a drifter who wanders into rural Red Rock, Wyoming, looking for work. A local bar owner named Wayne (J. T. Walsh) mistakes him for a hit man, "Lyle from Dallas" (Dennis Hopper), whom Wayne has hired to kill his wife. But Wayne's wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle) offers him more money to kill Wayne...
Review: John Dahl (‘The Last Seduction’) is a master of the neo-noir and Michael is a prototypical noir lunkhead, played by Cage with a weirdo wildness that’s tinged with resignation. Despite starring Cage and Dennis Hopper, two absolute maniacs, this film is plot-heavy, with subtle performances. This is where the Cage-a-Thon audience will begin to feel sleepy.
Rating: 4/5 (get a coffee)

Vampire’s Kiss (1989)
Director: Robert Bierman
Synopsis: Peter Loew (Cage) is a driven literary agent whose primary interests seem to be alcohol, skirt chasing and making money. When he takes his girlfriend back to his apartment, a bat interrupts their hook-up. Loew finds himself strangely aroused by the creature. Then he encounters a mysterious woman named Rachel (Jennifer Beals). Quickly, his life spirals out of control.
Review: ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ is a noir-infused proto-‘American Psycho’ in many ways, about a yuppie with no apparent responsibilities who turns into a madman whose fear and contempt for women manifests in office sadism, madness, and finally, full-on vampirism (with a cheap pair of plastic fangs). It’s also a must-see for Cage’s first-ever completely chaotic, over-the-top performance, using a mysterious transatlantic accent and eating a real cockroach.
Rating: 4/5

The Wicker Man (2006)
Director: Neil Labute
Synopsis: Sheriff Edward Malus (once again, Nicolas Cage) hears from his ex that a girl has gone missing from an island where she now lives. Outside his jurisdiction, he irrationally goes to investigate, only to discover a weird ye olde pagan cult village run by women. From this point onwards, Malus discards all logic completely as he tries to figure out where the girl went, and despite the blatantly obvious plot points that could be seen 100 miles off on a foggy night, remains clueless of the truth until the very end.
Review (by Charlie David Page): Could this be the worst remake of all time? The question isn't rhetorical - and the answer is unequivocally yes. Cage's "acting" (A.K.A. consistently angry yelling) in an attempt to make the shoddily-altered dialog from its 1973 predecessor even vaguely sensical ("How'd it get burned? How'd it get burned??" or "What's in the bag? A shark or something?" come to mind) makes his normally chaotic performing style seem borderline mentally disturbed. It's best not to question why Frances Conroy and Ellen Burstyn signed on to this project, but my current theory has something to do with kidnapping and blackmail. Just watch the damn original.
Rating: 0.5/5 (get out while you still can!)

Drive Angry (2011)
Director: Patrick Lussier
Synopsis: In this grindhouse film, John Milton (Nicolas Cage) is an undead criminal who has escaped Hell and stolen Satan's personal gun, labeled the Godkiller, to kill cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke). Sounds amazing, right?
Review: Cage's appearance fee for this shockingly dull film either paid for his pyramid crypt at St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans (the man's not even dead and his final resting place is already a tourist attraction) or his dinosaur bones (at one time, Cage owned a Tyrannosaurus bataar skull). If you can withstand ‘Drive Angry’ (which was shot in 3D but isn’t being screened in the format) at the Cage-a-Thon, you are a true fan.
Rating: 1/5 (go get a beer to ward off fatigue)

Con Air (1997)
Director: Simon West
Synopsis: Ex-Ranger Cameron Poe (surprise, Cage) is imprisoned for killing a man while defending his wife from drunken thugs (his hands are classified as deadly weapons, you see). Poe is due to be released from prison, but while hitching a ride on a special plane reserved for dangerous criminals, the cons (John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Danny Trejo, etc) take over the plane, and hold the guards and pilots hostage as they attempt to flee the country.
Review: For some reason, Cage’s career transitioned into “tough-guy superstar” mode during the ‘90s. With a weird Southern drawl, and delivering lines like “Put the bunny back in the box” with a straight-face, the only oversized thing about Cage’s performance is his hair. This film features Cage’s greatest haircut of all time, with Cameron Poe clearly gaining superhuman strength and stamina, like a modern day Samson, from his long, greasy mullet.
Rating: 4/5

Tickets for Melbourne International Film Festival’s Cage-a-Thon can be purchased here.

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