Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

The Friday (Sunday?) Five: Five Favorite Nic Cage Performances

I spent some time this weekend getting an automobile situation ironed out, so here’s my delayed Friday Five!

Five Favorite Nic Cage Performances

5. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

When Werner Herzog announced he would direct a remake of a 1992 Abel Ferrara film, I asked “Why?” But I also said to myself, “It’s Werner Herzog … he can do whatever the fuck he wants.” When I finally saw the film I enjoyed it so much that I retroactively made it my #1 of 2009. Cage stars as Terrance McDonough, a corrupt New Orleans cop who has as much fun smoking crack as he does busting scum bags. Cage’s twitchy performance brings a surreality to the film (which is helped by Herzog’s bizarre POV camera shots) that leads to a sense of anything-can-happen excitement. With plenty of parallels to a post-Katrina New Orleans, a solid script, great direction, and a manic Cage performance, Bad Lieutenant begs to be seen.

Here’s a great scene:

4. Adaptation

In 2002’s Spike Jonze film Adaptation, the audience gets the pleasure of watching Nic Cage play not one, but two roles. In a film that also includes Meryl Streep and an Oscar-winning performance from Chris Cooper, Cage truly stands out amongst the crowd. Like a proverbial latter-career Eddie Murphy, Cage’s Charlie and Donald Kaufman dominate the screen. Playing to-type as neurotic writer Charlie Kaufman as well also to-type as the full-of-ham fictional Donald Kaufman, Cage was correctly nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant performance.

3. Matchstick Men

Cage seems to play best when he plays a character who is a ball of neuroses. Ridley Scott’s 2003 feature film Matchstick Men is no different. Suffering from all manner of mental illnesses, Cage stars as conman turned family man Roy Waller.

The following clip helps summarize just how well Cage brings his disorders to the screen:

2. Moonstruck

While often remembered for Cher’s Oscar win, Nic Cage truly owns Moonstruck. Cage co-stars as Ronny Cammareri, a one-handed Italian-American baker with an attitude problem. When he meets his brother’s fiance, played by a fantastic Cher, his anger truly spills out. His brother, partly responsible for Ronny’s mangled hand, is now going to marry a beautiful woman and continue to live a happy life. Cher takes notice of Ronny’s explosive anger and energy, which leads to one of the great (in my mind) cinematic romances of all time. Cage’s performances is phenomenal. Both a romantic and a rage-aholic, Cammareri brings to life a twisted, sag figure who gets an unlikely second chance.

One of my favorite film scenes of all time:

1. Raising Arizona

Apparently the Coen brothers had such a difficult time getting Cage to do what they wanted him to do that they will never work with him again. If they don’t, they can at least say they have a batting average of a thousand as far as great Cage performances go. Released in 1987 (the same years as Moonstruck … when Cage was 23 years old!), Raising Arizona features Nic as H.I. McDunnough as a low-life criminal who, along with his wife (played by an excellent Holly Hunter), kidnaps a child belonging to a local retail giant to raise as their own. Cage’s redneck underdog is one of the great Coen characters: smarter than the world gives him credit for, but continuously facing obstacles that place happiness just out of arm’s reach.


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