8:45 AM – The Beginning
Once again, it's that time of year where everyone shows their American pride by getting drunk, eating burnt animal flesh, and making things go boom. So once again it's time for me to show my American pride by watching four lesser Nicolas Cage films available to me on Netflix as is my God given right as an American citizen. You know, when I first got the idea to do this again after last year's Independence Cage, I was worried there might not be another four Nic Cage films from his...well, “now” period to supply the fodder for this piece. I couldn't have been more wrong. There were so many of these types of Cage films available on Netflix beyond the four I did last year, that I had to narrow it down and make some tough decisions about what to watch...what a country. What follows is another year, another celebration, and another journey through the world of Nicolas Cage's paychecks.
9:00 AM – Knowing (2009)
Holy shit, this was the perfect way to start off Independence Cage. In fact, maybe too perfect. I kind of fucking loved this movie and I highly doubt anything will reach the heights of ridiculous tomfoolery that this Alex Proyas film did. After about ten minutes of opening set up involving an outcast girl in 1959 that hears voices and is compelled to write down a bunch of numbers and put it in her class time capsule to be opened in the future, Nicolas Cage shows up in the future ready to party 4th of July style. When we first see him as John Koestler, local MIT professor and drunken widower, he's grilling out “Dad's Famous Sunday Night Hot Dogs on the Run” (seriously, what the fuck is happening?) and drinking a rather large glass of red wine (and he gave that bad boy a home pour). Once his somewhat hearing-impaired son goes to bed, daddy Cage takes out the hard stuff and gets so distracted by tigers on television that he comically over pours his bourbon and spills it all over like the silly silly drunk he is, including on that page full of numbers from the beginning. Oh yeah, the plot of the movie...sorry, I could spend most of this just discussing Cage's drinking habits in this film. He's hardcore drinking at least three times in his first ten minutes on screen!
So, his son got this numbers paper from his school when they opened up the time capsule from 50 years prior and Cage drunkenly starts noticing patterns in the numbers that chronologically show the dates, number of dead people, and exact latitude and longitude coordinates for every major disaster that has occurred for the past 50 years. But wait, there's still a couple of events set to happen within the next few days, including the end of the world! Oh yeah, this turns out to be a real deal Holyfield end of the world movie where the whole planet and everyone on it straight up dies, minus a small selection of children and animals that get taken to a new planet by the aliens...oh yeah, there's aliens in this movie too. I kind of feel like I'm losing my mind trying to describe this movie, but everything I'm saying is true...and it's kind of fucking wonderful. Cage gets to bring his fun big budget A game to a ridiculous movie that is pretty well done by Dark City's Proyas. Hell, even the terrible 2009 CGI isn't that horrible and is kind of forgivable given the brutality of some of its uses. We're talking a moose and all other sorts of animals on fire, a pov shot of a derailed subway car mowing innocent people down, and a new Earth that has an aesthetic akin to Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain. But this film left me with so many questions like:
-Is the implication that these two kids (and these two rabbits) are going to fuck to rebuild the population on another planet?
-Why are there news reports throughout the film that keep mentioning all the tragedies happening around the world, but the page Cage has only lists the tragedies that are happening around him?
-Wait, but there are multiple spaceships whisking people away at the end, does that mean all of these have chosen children on them?
-Does that mean there were a bunch of different time capsules and all of them had a disasters numbers sheet and all were discovered by people that were able to decipher the code and get to their particular alien meet up spot?
-Do each of the ships contain a pair of children for repopulation and if so, is it a full-on Noah's Ark situation where each pair of kids also brings a pair of some other animal with them to help bring Earth back to life when they land on the new planet?
-Does this mean logistically there is another parallel story happening during this movie where a grief-stricken father must say goodbye to his only son and then watch him ride off into an alien spaceship on top of a moose?
Seriously everyone, just watch this movie.
11:30 AM – Dog Eat Dog (2016)
The second film I watched saw Cage playing an ex-con named Troy (not Caster, sadly) who along with his crew of Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe) and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) take a job from a mobster guy to steal the kid of another mobster guy for ransom. Then of course, things go wrong and everyone dies and it tries to be funny and violent and shocking and blah blah blah. This one was a wild card, not just because it's a Paul Schrader movie starring both Cage and Willem Dafoe (though that certainly fits the bill), but because I couldn't decide what to watch in this slot. It was originally going to be Outcast with Cage and Hayden Christensen playing warriors during the Crusades or some shit, but luckily a friend talked me out of doing that one. Then I thought about watching another newer Cage film, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage because a lot of it was filmed in and around my hometown of Mobile, Alabama...but then it turned out to be well over two hours long, so it can go fuck itself. Then I finally landed on watching Dog Eat Dog, which from my long drawn out paragraph not really discussing it, you might be able to figure out I wasn't a huge fan of. For a film that seemed like Paul Schrader jerking himself off to how dark and edgy he was for an hour and a half, the film was slow, bland, and its message was all over the place. Is it maybe kind of an anti-gun movie? Does Schrader love these terrible characters or just enjoy making fun of and punishing them? What the fuck is up with all of the Taylor Swift jokes in this fucking thing? Who would have thought that this movie would leave me with more baffling questions than Knowing?
At this point I'm halfway through the marathon and thinking about the past year. Like any good American, I eat a couple of hot dogs and then sit outside, drinking a 24 oz beer and smoking a Black & Mild. I think back to where I was a year ago when I first did this silly Cage idea that I like to tell myself is funny and cool, but I know is actually just kind of sad and lonely. I guess it's easier to see that this year because of how much my world has changed over the past twelve months. I've moved away from the place I lived for the past five years and came back home to Alabama. This included leaving behind the job I was at for almost as long and all the financial security that came with that. It also included leaving behind the person I had spent the last seven years of my life with and all the emotional security that came with that. I got to a new town, got a new place, got a new job, and got a whole new set of problems...but I'm still just doing the same shit. Still just watching a bunch of movies I don't really care about to write a bunch of nonsense that no one really cares to read. What am I doing with my life? Oh well, time for a shitty Nic Cage ghost movie!
2:00 PM – Pay the Ghost (2015)
Finally, a familiar shit Cage movie! This one is a “that ghost took my child!” kind of movie that is a little Wicker Man and a little Silent Hill, but is all Cage baby! Cage plays a professor again (dude is mad fake educated) by the name of Mike Lawford, who must go to the ends of the Earth (well really just in some underground homeless cities) to find his child that was abducted during a Halloween carnival in Canada which is doubling as New York City by having a Halloween party that makes it look like New Orleans. It turns out there was an Irish witch that was burned along with her three children so she cursed the world and now every Halloween she steals three children back from people...but apparently you can rescue the children from the previous year by going over a magical underground bridge and saving them before midnight or something. Whatever, Cage does it.
This is another example of a very by the numbers and kind of uninspiring movie that Cage still tosses his all into (at least as much as he tends to do these days). This movie is ridiculous and doesn't really make a lick of fucking sense, but Cage emotes like a motherfucker when he needs to, he seriously acts when he has to pretend he's getting thrown around by a CGI witch creature, and he does action running in a cowboy outfit...this guy cares. There really wasn't anything too interesting or fun going on in this movie, but Cage is always a fascinating figure to watch and if something got him to show up even a little, I feel like I need to give it my full attention. Weird side note, this is the only film I watched today where Nicolas Cage doesn't die...and he fights a demonic witch ghost in this one.
4:00 PM – The Trust (2016)
The last film in my Cage-a-thon is without a doubt the best made, directed, and acted film of the day and a lovely note to go out on. After a day full of running, screaming, shooting, and crying...well this movie had all that too, but Cage has a mustache in it and his sidekick is Elijah Wood and Jerry Lewis shows up for no fucking reason! Score! This time Cage plays a Las Vegas cop named Jim Stone who drags in his buddy cop (haha) David Waters (Wood) into an investigation that turns into a vault heist, compete with some double crosses, revelations of true character, and weirdo friendships! The strongest thing about this film (other than it's a lot different than all the others) is the chemistry between Wood and Cage. Those two have a wonderful back and forth and a relationship that's part father/son, part older/younger brother, and part homoerotic forbidden love. It is a joy to watch.
I think it also has the fact that Cage looks like he is having a blast doing this film on its side. The way he gleefully spouts off some of these lines/jokes and all the small nerdy ticks he gives the character seems like he really flipped the switch from “show up and do your job Cagey-boy” to “oh yeah, this is why I love doing this shit!” (I assume this is how Cage's inner monologue sounds). This movie feels fresh despite being a relatively simple “cops go bad/let's pull off a heist” story. It has a few twists and turns, but never anything so out of left field or overboard to the point where it gets annoying, like so many double cross movies tend to do. Hell, I'm not even left with a bunch of dumb questions like every other fucking movie I watched today. It's good and you should check it out. That's all I got.
5:45 PM – The Aftermath
This marathon dragged a bit and worried me in the middle, but it started and ended strong. It ended up feeling like a good idea and a worthwhile way to spend my paid holiday off from work as an American! Nic and I laughed, Nic and I cried, Nic and I wondered why none of these movies were set in New Orleans. But finally, Nic and I had a good time. I was a little hesitant to do this thing again after last year and wasn't sure I was up for an undertaking like this, much less writing about it along the way. I came in Knowing it could all go south in this Dog Eat Dog world of Nicolas Cage movies because he'll be in any movie if you Pay the Ghost of his career, but I knew I could fall back on The Trust that it would at least be a wild ride. Nailed it. Happy Fourth of July everyone and maybe I'll see you here next year as we celebrate...our Independence Cage!!!