Lists, Top 5 Performances — October 7, 2011 at 3:01 am

KAI’S TOP 5 PERFORMANCES: NICOLAS CAGE

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Can you believe this was almost a Top 10? Okay, that’s not true but it’s a solid Top 5. Cage gets a lot of crap around here (especially from Fletch… there’s no pleasing that guy). The fact of the matter is that Cage is a very polarizing personality. I think most people are actually torn inside as to how they feel about him. We all love to hate him but also hate to love him. It’s no secret that Cage makes a LOT of crappy movies (as was perfectly illustrated by my colleague Heather a few weeks back) but he can also bring it too. When Cage finds success, it’s by one of two methods. He either turns in a surprise, tempered, solid performance or finds a role that suits his bat-shit-insane personality. You’ll find both on this list. Enjoy:

5. FACE/OFF (CASTOR TROY & SEAN ARCHER).

Would you believe that this performance actually changed some people’s lives? While this is a silly action movie with an unbelievably ridiculous premise, Cage is actually doing a lot of great stuff in it. He’s perfect as the main antagonist (Castor Troy) but also does a great job mirroring John Travolta’s protagonist (Sean Archer). On top of that, at one point, he’s actually Cage playing Travolta playing Cage. It’s a bit confusing and a bit meta but it’s frickin’ fun to watch!

4. ADAPTATION (CHARLIE & DONALD KAUFMAN).

This one stands out to me because it’s so unlike anything else Cage has ever done. Not only that but he plays identical twins and manages to give each such a unique and interesting personality. On top of that, he does so playing against himself (or a tennis ball at the time).

3. KICK ASS (BIG DADDY).

Cage is actually a huge Fanboy. At one point, I believe he had one of the most valuable comic book collections in the world. His dream superhero role, playing Superman for Tim Burton, fizzled out. He took, what probably felt like, one last shot at playing a superhero in the if not awful then forgettable Ghost Rider. Then, this little gem came along. Cage gives an awesome performance by channeling the ghost of Adam West’s Batman in what was a severely underrated performance.

2. RAISING ARIZONA (H.I. McDUNNOUGH).

Who knew that all of Cage’s idiosyncrasies would fit so nicely into the world of the Coen Brothers? Besides the Coens, that is. H.I. is probably my all time favorite Cage character… those of you Coen fans that have pushing off seeing this film need to rectify that A.S.A.P. … but it isn’t his best performance. Close  but no cigar!

1. LEAVING LAS VEGAS (BEN SANDERSON).

Sanderson is by far Cage’s best turn on the big screen. It’s one of those things where you look over at the person you’re watching this film with and say: Holy Shit! Did you know Nicolas Cage could actually act? I’m not the only one who noticed either as this role actually earned Cage his sole Oscar. One that I actually feel was well deserved… and that doesn’t happen very often with the academy!

So, what are some of your favorite Nicolas Cage performances?

32 Comments

  • I think I need to revisit Leaving Las Vegas, as I wasn’t that crazy about it or Cage in it the first time I saw it (last year some time). My number one would definitely be Adaptation, probably followed by Raising Arizona. And as I am want to do, I would definitely throw some love Con Air’s way as well

  • I’d give a mention to “Con Air” just for the bunny line.
    And what, no “Wicker Man” love? I mean, THE BEES! They were in his eyes!! Killing him wasn’t gonna bring back their god damn honey!! AHH!
    -Jason

  • You picked some good ones. I think I might have swapped “Leaving Las Vegas” for Bad Lieutenant, but that’s probably because LLV was such an uncomfortable movie for me.

    • Oh god yes, completely forgot Bad Lieutenant. Definitely deserves a spot as well (if only for Cage threatening two old ladies with a god damn hand canon!)

  • I’m with Tom. I’d probably put Adaptation at #1 as well, but my #2 would probably be Kick-Ass.

  • While I might change the order, it’s hard to argue with the picks.

  • He does get a lot of crap these days, but he’s also putting out a lot of crap. He had some great performances in his earlier 80’s work like Valley Girl (1983) Birdy (1984) and as Cher’s love interest in Moonstruck (1987). Seemed to be mostly downhill after the Oscar.

  • No love for LORD OF WAR? That’s his best performance since ADAPTATION, hands down, in my book!

  • Good list, though I pretty much hate Adaptation. I will say that Cage does a great job; I just didn’t like where the story went in it’s second half. I did a Top 5 Cage List over the summer, and the only crossover with yours was Face/Off. I do think he’s solid in Raising Arizona and Leaving Las Vegas and haven’t seen Kick Ass yet, so I can’t argue with your picks. I will say that Bad Lieutenant is something to see.

    • The second half of Adaptation is the freakin’ best part! It’s so damn meta it hurts. He gives into the Hollywood conventions he hates and the script he’s writing becomes the movie itself, because Kaufman based it on his own attempted adaptation of that book, etc. etc. It’s like positioning a mirror opposite a mirror. The reflection never ends.

      • I know. I know. I will say that I’ve only seen Adaptation once in the theaters, so it’s possible my opinion might change the second time. I dug Synecdoche, New York, which is a lot crazier, so it’s possible I just need to give it another shot.

        • I don’t like Adaptation either, Dan, but he is great in it. The movie structure (the Meta aspect as Nick mentioned) is actually quite brilliant. I think Nick’s a bit off though. The second half of the film is actually written by his brother. So, he does give into Hollywood conventions by turning the script over to him. That’s why it turns into an action thriller. And that’s why they actually have dual script writing credit, I believe.

          • Yup… just checked IMDB. That’s why Kaufman’s twin (who is not real) shares screenwriting credit on the real film.

          • Really? I knew he had the writing credit. But I’ve seen the film a few times, and I never picked up on the fact it was his brother writing it. I always thought he gave into his brother’s ideas on script-writing, but he still wrote it himself.

          • No, he actually gives up and his brother takes over finishing it which is why the film takes such a dramatic tonal change.
            This film gets discussed in screenwriting classes and seminars ad naseum! I think the first time I learned that, it was actually Robert McKee (the real life version of Brian Cox’s character), at the Creative Screenwriting Expo after the film’s release, that shared that tidbit.

  • H.I. is my favorite Cage performance. It’s the only time I find him human and likable.

    I do like him a lot in Face/Off, but more because he fits perfectly in the ridiculous, over the top nature of the film.

    Not a fan of him in Kick Ass. He goes from being ironically sincere to legitimately sincere and he can’t pull off the latter.

  • That’s a great list. I can’t really say what my favorite performance of his is, but I will admit to being one of those Coen brothers fans that hasn’t seen Raising Arizona. It is, as you put it, just me putting it off for no damn reason. I also still haven’t seen A Serious Man.

    I forgot about the whole Troy playing Archer playing Troy who’s mimicking Archer’s version of Troy’s Archer.

    Anyone remember Snake Eyes? Anyone?

  • The funny thing about Nicolas Cage, I don’t tend to remember if his performance was good or not, just how good or bad the movie was. For example, I don’t remember him being particularly bad in Knowing but it was a REALLY bad film. A few I remember enjoying an (I think) he was good in: Bad Lieutenant, Lord of War and Matchstick Men.

    I have to see Raising Arizona again; I haven’t seen the movie in years.

    • Damn all of you people with your Knowing hate. Pile it on, I love that movie.

      Ah, yes, Matchstick Men is cool. Cage, Rockwell, and Ridley. A Match(stick) made in heaven. Waa waaa.

  • Nice list Kai. I would switch Arizona with Matchstick Men and find a way to mention Conair as I said above. Other than we are in agreement and I definitively need to see Adaptation again now.

    When do we get the top ten worst Cage performances?

  • One of my favorite movies is “The Rock” and mostly because I feel he was the one holding that flick together. Without his hilarious take on Stanley Goodspeed (great name, btw), the movie would have had a different, more serious vibe, and we know Michael Bay can’t pull of serious. On imbd it was mentioned the movie script was actually quite serious, but the actors improvised like mad and all of it was kept in.

  • How is GOD’s NAME did I miss this post?!?!

    Love the list but I have to add The Rock. Stanley Goodspeed has soooo many one liners that are quotable in almost any situation.

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