Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Defense of Nicolas Cage

In this very space, the acting of one Nicolas Cage has been mocked. More than once. Sometimes it’s because of his bizarre habit of shaking his fingers next to his head while explaining something. Sometimes it’s because of the faces that he makes when performing or the pacing of his speech. Whatever the reason, though, it always seemed appropriate to mock his acting talent, or perceived lack thereof. However, is the grief that the general public gives Cage truly warranted?

Right off the bat, Nicolas Cage won the Best Actor Oscar in 1996 for his performance in “Leaving Las Vegas.” And he totally deserved it. But it’s easy to write off one Oscar as a fluke. Heck, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sandra Bullock have won Oscars and everyone from Kate Hudson to Sylvester Stallone have gotten nominated, serving as proof of the old adage that every actor has at least one great performance in them. Cage, though, he dispelled that theory when he got nominated for a second Oscar for his performance as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and Charlie Kaufman’s fictitious twin Donald Kaufman in 2003’s “Adaptation.”

The thing about Nicolas Cage’s acting isn't that it’s necessarily bad. Sure, he’s had some clunkers but so has every actor that has been around as long as he has. Overall, though, his acting isn't bad. Bad acting ruins the illusion and makes the viewer aware that he or she is watching a movie. Bad acting makes watching a movie a chore and can ruin an otherwise solid film.

When the black hole of charisma Megan Fox stepped on the screen in “Friends with Kids,” an otherwise pleasant film suddenly becomes a struggle. She has no chemistry with co-star Adam Scott, who has connected on screen with everyone from Amy Poehler to Mr. Feeny. Yet, somehow a romance between him and Megan Fox seems like a complete impossibility.

That is what bad acting is and that is what bad acting does. A bad actor is hard to watch. That is not Nicolas Cage. When Nicolas Cage steps onto the screen, he is captivating. The viewer cannot take their eyes off of him. Maybe not always for the best reasons but it always holds true because when given two choices, Nicolas Cage never takes the normal path. Instead, he often seems to make the most ridiculous choice possible when it comes to his characters.

The question really becomes what enables Cage to make these riskily ridiculous choices? For one, he’s clearly trying to be his own man, which is why he named himself after a comic book character instead of keeping his birth name Nicolas Coppola. Riding on his Uncle Francis’ coattails and resting on the family name would have been the easy path to ensure a career. As his performances have shown, though, taking the easy way has never been the Cage way.

While some people may have played Big Daddy in “Kick-Ass” as a more typical, albeit eccentric, hero-type, which would not really have been out of line tonally with the film, Cage chose to do a parody/homage to Adam West’s Batman. In “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans,” in which he played a detective addicted to pain medication, he very easily could attempted to fill the classic cop-with-a-secret. Instead, chose to play a drug addict masquerading as a cop.

Bad actors exist. Heck, bad actors sometimes even thrive, although eventually everyone catches on and those bad performers go from making “American Pie” to making something called “Sharknado.” (That last sentence was about Tara Reid, in case anyone was wondering.) With a few, action-movie related exceptions, bad actors do not have 30 year careers.

Is Nicolas Cage as good of a performer as someone like Daniel Day-Lewis or Tom Hanks? No. But he is definitely not bad. Not by any stretch. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say he's similar to Tom Hanks in his acting abilities.

April 25, 2013 at 5:45 PM 
Blogger Tony Fioriglio said...

I respectfully disagree with this blatantly troll-ish comment

April 28, 2013 at 10:32 AM 

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