I’m taking a week to rest, watch new movies and recover as we approach the midpoint of 2022. This week I’m using this space to recommend a new book because I can’t write well unless I’m reading something. With the meta-reflexive comedy “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” still set in Regal, it’s the perfect timing for Keith Phipps’ new tome “Age of Cage,” which showcases the entire four decades of film performances of the one and only Nicolas. Cage are included.
Here’s something interesting: I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a toddler, but until I read a “Rolling Stone” interview with Bill Murray when he was promoting “Ghostbusters” (1984), I had never heard of the acting term “choices.” ” Murray talked about John Belushi and how he made great choices on stage in Second City, the kind of choices that could solve a scene that might be on the list. It was a revelation to me: playing a role means making choices. How would you play this role? Does the character have an accent? A limp? It’s all about choice, and it’s safe to say that Nicolas Cage makes some of the boldest choices imaginable, and he’s been doing so since the beginning of his career.
But Phipps pursues another goal here, which is to break through the changes and trends in film since Cage’s first appearance, a failed TV pilot, in 1981. Kiss” (1989), “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995), “Willy’s Wonderland” (2019) and “Moonstruck” (1987), he also writes about the artistic divide between Michael Bay’s 90s action aesthetic and the pioneering John Woo Hong Kong style and David Caruso’s failed bid. time and again he finds ways to look at Cage’s filmography through the lens of Hollywood history.
Phipps is only interested in biography as it relates to Cage’s career and performance choices – there’s that word again. Cage has been in the business for so long that he probably has generations of fans who don’t know that he changed his name from Coppola to Cage when he auditioned for Martha Coolidge’s “Valley Girl” (1983). Phipps is able to narrow down his origin story to just 11 pages, though he also makes room for mentions of his marriages, children, and Cage’s extravagant spending habits that led to tax troubles in the 2010s: Cage’s “VOD” era.
There’s a sadness in this section as Cage puts out more movies than anyone would like to see, but Phipps is still able to spot several underrated Cage vehicles such as “Joe” (2013), “Kick-Ass” (2010), in to put the spotlight on. “World Trade Center” (2006), “Pig” (2021), “Teen Titans Go to the Movies” (2019), and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018).
“Age of Cage” would be worth a read just for Phipps’ detailed history of Nicolas Cage memes, but there’s even more fun pop junk to explore here. In 2014, an episode of “Community” featured a storyline in which Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) attends a Nicolas Cage course at Greendale Community College and plunges into a Cage rabbit hole of research and conspiracy theories. Just when I was wondering if Phipps would mention this, he makes it a pivotal point in one chapter.
And if Phipps did nothing but shine an appreciative light on Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation” (2002) and Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men” (2003), “Age of Cage” justifies its existence by examining the ripples of pop culture.
Recommended: “Petite Maman” at Cinemapolis
RIP: Fred Ward (“Tremors”, “The Right Stuff”, “Southern Comfort”, “The Player”, “Short Cuts”)