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Film

Listen Up...The schtick of Nicolas Cage is getting old

@Russellisation

There’s a moment in the lavish 2018 punk horror Mandy that gnaws into the fourth wall like a chainsaw through mud, as Nicolas Cage stares towards the camera covered in blood whilst at the wheel of a car and gives a wide white grin. 

Released at the height of the actor’s new identity renaissance, the Panos Cosmatos movie about a psychedelic hippie cult who steals a man’s wife and livelihood, starred Nicolas Cage in one of his most manic recent roles. Initially assimilating well to the film’s peculiar, grunge aesthetic, the cult of Cage slowly consumed the thrilling movie until it was ‘just another’ vehicle for the actor’s own tomfoolery, not unlike such projects as Prisoners of the Ghostland or Willy’s Wonderland

Such movies exist not as standalone action movies or horror flicks, but instead as products of the Nicolas Cage meme machine, existing in their own throwaway genre entirely. 

This is no new phenomenon, however, with Cage having occupied this persona for many decades now, screaming “I’m a vampire” in 1988s Vampire’s Kiss and hissing at the camera in the awful Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance in 2011. As a cinematic provocateur, Nicolas Cage has been operating a persona throughout his whole career, teetering the line between artist and self-indulgent meme. 

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It all started after the cataclysmic explosion of internet culture in the early 21st century, when Cage was inextricably transformed into a figurehead for internet surrealism, becoming an icon and meme on forums as early as 2005 in the post ‘Nicolas Cage loves Mario Kart’. This trend quickly caught on, leading to viral flash animations and even an auction for a photograph of Nicolas Cage’s 1870 lookalike that went for $1,000,000, as Cage became a commodity of internet culture. 

In conversation with The Guardian in 2013 about his newfound online fame, the actor stated: “I don’t know why it is happening. I’m trying not to… lemme say this: I’m now of the mindset that, when in Rome, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” with the actor doing precisely this. 

Creating an idiosyncratic cinematic ‘insanity’ that included cartoon facial expressions and an eclectic choice of vocabulary, the actor built an exaggerated version of his personality that conflated his pre-millennium performances and his internet-invented identity. This was released to the world in the 2017 movie Mom and Dad and continues to this very day as the actor continues to recognise the economic value of his own absurdism. 

After over five years of this excessive style of self-indulgent performance, the meme of Nicolas Cage is getting old, with the actor no longer able to shout, grin and freak his way out of a bad movie. 

In the release of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, it seems as though the cult of Cage has come full circle, as he plays himself in an action-comedy where he attends the birthday of a billionaire superfan to the tune of a $1 million appearance fee. With the joke persona of the actor being the central conceit of the film, it seems as though the meme of Nicolas Cage may have finally run out of legs, relying on empty meta self-referential comedy to fuel a film that should strive for so much more. 

Frustratingly, below the layers of memes, compilation videos, ‘greatest freakouts’ and wide grins to the camera, lies one of the most enigmatic and exciting actors of all time. It’s about time he kicked away his cyberculture crutch.

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