Why I Can’t Stop Dreaming About Nicolas Cage

March 19, 2024

From your A-B-Cs to Not the Bees, from the Snakeskin jacket that represents individual freedom to I Am a Prickly Pear — for over decades, Nicolas Cage has been a goldmine for countless memes, jokes and impressions. But besides the apparent comedic aspect of his unforgettable film performances, Cage has carved out a truly singular cinematic space as an actor, performing in some of the most endearing, incredible and weirdly fascinating movies of our times.

As the master of the “nouveau shamanic” acting style, Cage is one of a kind: his performances are heavily stylized, expressionistic, over the top, instantly recognizable as those of Nicolas Cage, but also still layered, sensitive, smart and sincere. Cage can take a good film and make it a masterpiece, just like he can take a bad film and make it, well… fun to watch. He has worked with film auteurs like the Coen Brothers, Mike Figgis, Michael Bay, John Woo, Brian de Palma, Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese, the late Norman Jewison and, of course, his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola — to just name a few. But he’s also the star of countless trash films that in some cases probably only exist for certain tax write-off reasons. Maybe because of these inherent contradictions in a filmography that spans over 120 titles, he’s one of the most iconic movie stars ever, with an oeuvre that’s endlessly fascinating to dissect and revisit.

I can know, because when I started my writing as an aspiring film critic, I had a Tumblr Blog called Caged Cinema, in which I reviewed every Nicolas Cage movie released at that point. I believe that this experience has opened me up to so many different types of films — from gas station dollar bin shlock to instant-classics — that it changed how I was hardwired as a cinephile and film professional. Nicolas Cage makes you appreciate the quirks of cinema, the heavily stylized moments, the silly stuff, the unconventional approach — his nonconformity is a breath of fresh air in a mainstream film culture that seems increasingly sanitized and corporately controlled. That’s the quintessential quality of this guy: you simply can’t Cage the Cage. 

Something as pure as Nicolas Cage doesn’t come by that often in the movies. He connects our time to those of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges and Elvis Presley. When he was cast for Francis Ford Coppola’s majorly underrated Rumble Fish, he wasn’t cast because he was Coppola’s nephew, but because he could evoke a long-gone era of 50s Americana. As a matter of fact: the surname Cage was a way for Nicolas to lose his association with Uncle Coppola, allowing him to carve out his own path in Hollywood.

As such, Nicolas Cage is a window into the world of cinema, an icon of the big screen, an acting guru and a living and breathing meme. He’s also one of my own personal hero’s, and an artist whose films I can endlessly revisit. So it’s just my luck, as Nicolas Cage is also the subject of an upcoming LAB111 retrospective fittingly called Nicolas Uncaged, which offers some of the best Cage movies for you to enjoy. 

So let’s put the bunny back in the box and uncage the Cage by diving into our personal relationships with the man, the myth, the legend.

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