Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Nicolas Cage, National Treasure
Over the weekend it was revealed that the New York Times, in keeping with its ongoing recent mission to trash journalistic standards it once held dear, actually concealed from the public the fact that Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore some weeks back, is actually a former Special Ops/Blackwater guy and a member of the CIA. He claims that the men in question were attempting to rob him. Whether or not that is the case, one of the men he shot in the back as he was fleeing. In broad daylight. In the streets of a country we cowardly drop remote control bombs on routinely, a country we claim to be a great ally in the muddled global war on terrorism.
Why is this important? In part because the Pakistani government has detained Raymond Davis, and the American government insists he's entitled to diplomatic immunity. It may be the case that he is, but it is also looking very likely that the American government sent a trained killer into the streets of Lahore to do intelligence gathering, and he used this license instead to murder someone. As for the New York Times, at the behest of the Obama Administration it decided not to report the truth of Mr. Davis' employment, and has instead allowed its readers to accept as credible Administration claims of Mr. Davis' fictional employ with the Consul and/or Embassy's offices.
So, basically, once again, fuck the New York Times. Thank God for Wikileaks. Et cetera.
But if the Times is ever going to weasel its way back into my heart, it will do so by continuing to celebrate in barely contained snark the full-bodied wonderfulness of Nicolas Cage. Here is a piece in today's Times about good actors who appear in schlock. I clicked on it, hopeful for a nugget about my friend Nic. But a mere nugget? I should have known better. The article, largely a meandering stupidity that perpetuates the lie that Anthony Hopkins is a good actor, crescendos in the final paragraphs thusly:
And it is what good actors bring to movies, even bad ones: discipline, conviction, the ability to help us suspend our disbelief by persuading us that they believe in what they are doing. The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness. You might almost say that greatness shows itself precisely in the discrepancy between the performance and the material. If that is true, then it is something like a mathematical certainty that the greatest actor in the world today is Nicolas Cage.
This hypothesis will be tested next Friday, when “Drive Angry 3D” opens in theaters, just two days ahead of the Academy Awards broadcast. Mr. Cage is no stranger to the Oscar — he was a best actor winner for “Leaving Las Vegas” and a nominee for “Adaptation” — but he has also been an action star, a comic player and, in recent years, the American cinema’s most popular and prolific purveyor of craziness.
With a handful of exceptions (Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” and Gore Verbinski’s “Weather Man” among them) critics have not smiled on Mr. Cage’s films of the past decade, which include a grab bag of hits and flops in various genres. He has anchored the juvenile action “National Treasure” franchise, and also science fiction and fantasy like “Ghost Rider,” “Knowing” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Mention must be made of “The Wicker Man,” Neil LaBute’s transcendentally awful remake of a 1970s horror movie, which has enjoyed a rich afterlife as a YouTube laughingstock.
Mr. Cage may have been driven to some of this by well-publicized financial difficulty, and some of his admirers have surely been puzzled by his choices. But it can never be said that he phones in a performance. He is more likely to scream into the telephone, or smash it to pieces, or some other sublime and unpredictable piece of business. Just doing his job, in other words.