Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nicolas Cage: Strange and Sincere

At Slate, Dana Stevens delivers another entertaining read with her latest 'The Heat-Seeking Panther: A few thoughts on the mannered weirdness of Nicolas Cage'.

This hook, in reference to 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice', got me on board:

The movie is a flimsy Saturday-matinee contraption, an inexpert mashup of B-grade Harry Potter and retro Disney teen fare like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

Nicely turned. Stevens' assessment of Cage's eclectic career is spiked with well-cut insights. I especially like this observation:

When he writhes in agony beneath a mask of bees at the end of Neil LaBute's otherwise dreadful 2006 remake of the cult horror classic The Wicker Man ("No! Not the bees!"), Cage resembles no actor so much as Vincent Price in the late '60s Roger Corman adaptations of Poe stories—movies that were made as cheap potboilers but now play as minor pop masterpieces in large part thanks to Price's craftsmanlike dedication.

As Anne Thompson recently said of Cage, "...he never phones it in, no matter how bad the movie." I'd have to agree.

Neither did Vincent Price, even in the unabashedly hammed-up horror flicks in which he played a crazed and zany Dr. Phibes. Despite the demented B-movie villainy, Price instills the mad doctor with a sincerity, a humanity that transcends schlock, and you can't help being sympathetic for the guy. Price was always connected to the material -- you never felt cheated.

Like Price, Nicolas Cage always delivers his heartfelt best, utilizing a breezy virtuosity, even when he chooses to ply his craft in pure cheese-fests. You can't help but admire the guy for that.

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