We’re not going to do a scientific study of it—it’s Friday, and the next episode of Outcast isn’t going to watch itself—but we’re willing to bet that roughly 50 percent of the time when a picture of Nicolas Cage appears on the internet, it’s a GIF or screenshot from The Wicker Man. Probably the bees, but sometimes it’s the one of him punching the woman in the face while dressed in a bear costume. (“How’d it get burned?!” is also a strong contender.) Cage has become the go-to example for cartoonish, over-the-top acting, and a few select movies, the aforementioned one most of all, are held up as the evidence.
It’s easy to forget he’s an Academy Award-winning actor who commands respect throughout his field, but Christopher Coffel at One Perfect Shot has written an impassioned screed that makes the case for remembering why Cage was hired for all these roles in the first place. He claims that too many people who like Cage nowadays only seem to like him ironically—a position he calls “Cageomasochism”—and aren’t actually watching his movies much any more. “But out of all the people that I’ve heard ask, ‘When was the last time Nicolas Cage made a good movie,’ I wonder how many have actually seen the 18 films he’s released in the last 10 years?” Coffel asks, laying out Cage’s filmography over that period with a selected list of films ranging from bad to very good.
Perhaps it’s Coffel’s quotation from Roger Ebert that best exemplifies Cage’s strengths as an actor: “He’s daring and fearless in his choice of roles and unafraid to crawl out on a limb, saw it off, and remain suspended in air. No one else can project inner trembling so effectively… he always seems so earnest.” The whole piece is a helpful corrective to the scornful attitude too many people seem to have of a badass actor who’s not scared to look ridiculous, a quality that Hollywood as a whole could use a lot more of.