I've gotten into some scuffles with good friends, total strangers and a (now ex-) girlfriend over my unabashed love of Nicolas Cage. So when I was offered a chance to defend this great thespian -- during Moviefone's long-overdue Nicolas Cage Week, no less -- I leapt at the chance.
I'm not saying that I'll see any movie just because Mr. Cage appears in it. Let's face it: The man has had money problems recently, and seems to have an unquenchable thirst for dressing up as wizards and other weirdos to enchant schlocky films with his presence.
On the other hand, some of my all-time favorite movie moments heavily involve Nic Cage -- and I suspect that, even if you harbor a general dislike for him, he's in some of your favorites, as well.
How do I love thee, Nicolas Cage? Let me count the ways -- with this list of five perfectly rational reasons why Cage is the man:
1. He gives a hair-raising performance in 'Raising Arizona.'
Darren Aronofsky once said that Mickey Rourke was one of the few actors who can act with his back. Well, I doubt there's an actor working today who has a better understanding of how to act with his hair than Nicolas Cage.
'Raising Arizona' was the movie that caused the world to fall in love with Cage's hair. His Woody Woodpecker-esque wave of hair perfectly enhances the Coen Brothers film's cartoonish violence and ridiculous chase sequences.
Crazy hair would become something of a trademark for Cage, also showing up in such movies as 'Bangkok Dangerous,' 'Con Air' and 'Adaptation.'
2. He is refreshingly neurotic, especially in 'Adaptation.'
It is a well-known fact that Nicolas Cage is famous for his freak-outs, tics and stuttering. Sometimes he'll get all Cage-y on us even in a role that doesn't need inexplicably bizarre behavior. But sometimes, as in the highly underrated 2002 film 'Adaptation,' his trademark weirdness is just what the doctor ordered.
Playing both screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and his identical twin, Donald, Cage puts his considerable treasure trove of idiosyncrasies to good use -- earning himself a Best Actor Oscar and BAFTA nomination in the process. If playing a dumpy, balding neurotic doesn't seem like much of a stretch for Cage, keep in mind that just a few years earlier he was one of the biggest action stars in the world.
Speaking of which ... see Reason #3.
3. He kicks ass in 'The Rock,''Face/Off' and 'Con Air' ...
In my household there are three great trilogies: the original 'Star Wars,' 'The Lord of the Rings' and the unofficial Nicolas Cage action-movie trilogy.
How great were these movies? Released back-to-back-to-back in 1996 and 1997, they channeled the energy, explosions and big guns of the best action flicks from the 1980s and (mercifully) put those long-missing elements back on the big screen. A skeptic could dismiss any or all of these movies as being corny -- but the fact of the matter is, they are a lot better than the conventional action movies that came out in 2010.
If you still do not think Nicolas Cage is a great actor, let me ask you this: What other actor could shoot an adorable little girl in the chest point blank and get a laugh out of the audience for it?
Seriously, I'm not joking. Shooting a child is the antithesis of funny. Yet Nicolas Cage somehow makes this scene work. I doubt there are many other actors who could.
5. He is a charming alcoholic (in 'Leaving Las Vegas', that is).
Nicolas Cage charmingly commits suicide with alcohol.
Sounds like a terrible idea for a movie, right? But because of the great delivery of drunken lines -- "I'm a prickly pear!" -- the movie worked so well that it earned Nicolas Cage an Academy Award for Best Actor. And rightly so.