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Sep 26, 2008

CAGEFEST ENDS! The Nic Cage Film Festival - Leaving Las Vegas

CAGEFEST comes to a close and boy are its arms tired. A BIG thanks again to all participating sites - you guys and gals rock the house all the way to the middle of the street. For previous entries, click here.

El Gringo of He Shot Cyrus runs my kind of site. An excellent mixture of meme/blog-a-thon participation, movie reviews, fun regular features...wait a sec, even the template is the same! What a damned thief! Of course I'm joking. Seriously, though, what's probably most impressive is that he's set up his successful blog and garnered quality traffic in such a short amount of time (69 posts, started 4/27/08). Now, he's here to praise LLV, the film that gave true legitimacy to Cage's career. Well, for awhile anyway...

"The film pulls no punches, takes no prisoners and flies in the face of feel-good pictures." Leonard Klady, Variety

I thought I'd start out my argument with some backup. This might be a tough one. Anyone can see where Cage's career's been heading since the 90...er...80...um, well, since the very beginning: the $5.50 bin at Wal-Mart. Feel free to take your pick between Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Windtalkers, or Bringing Out the Dead. They're all there, waiting for you.

Leaving Las Vegas is different. Cage has a pattern. He'll make a Raising Arizona and follow it with three Amos & Andrews. For every Moonstruck there's four Snake Eyes sitting around the corner. Leaving is one of the good ones. For those who haven't seen it, Cage plays a drunk. He's Ben Sanderson: binge drinking World Champion. But being the best comes with its costs, wives, kids, and jobs, for example. Now he's in Sin City ready to drink himself to death.

Ben meets a Sera, a prostitute (Shue), and the two bond over a shared distaste for life. The film just keeps coming at you. I'm generally a happy guy but this movie makes me want to suck on a pistol (in a good way). Cage plays a failure like no other. Shue also has a real grasp of her character. Sera may be a hooker but her heart's not made out of gold. This isn't Pretty Woman, when the shit goes down, she is forced to handle it herself. In one disturbing scene, Sera, is assaulted by three teenage boys. Where's her Richard Gere? He's busy entering the final stages of brain damage.

Cage's performance is surprisingly poignant. It's one of those that makes you sick to your stomach as you grasp just how hopeless his character's fate is. You keep waiting for things to turn around and they just don't. Pay attention when the previews for Kick-Ass and G-Force start coming out. They might say something like, "Starring Best Actor Nicolas Cage." That's right. Nic Cage won a Best Actor award for this movie. Figgis picked up two nominations and Shue almost won "Best Actress." I'll be honest, before writing this post, I had no idea he'd ever won anything. Thanks, Fletch.

...The More You Know...

Here's another plus, Nic Cage's hair doesn't look like it's leading the asylum inmate orchestra. His hair can't see two minutes into the future. His hair doesn't look like a balding version of The Crow. It's just a regular, good ol' I'm a Drunk do.

Let’s end with the obvious pro point. Elisabeth Shue. Naked.
Now, I usually try my hardest not to be that blogger. Judge a film by it's actual merit, not by how much skin it shows. Praising a movie for its objectification of women is wrong. That’s what I usually say. But this is Elizabeth Shue!

80s babies have been waiting for this for a long time. From the moment Ali almost got trampled by a game of beach soccer. Ever since Jennifer asked for a ride in the big, black truck. For years, we had to be jealous of Larusso, jealous of McFly, but no longer. What I'm saying is that even movies about suicidal alcoholics and disheartened prostitutes have upsides.

Our opinions don't always match up perfect, but few in blogville have such similar tastes as I pre-viewing as WaywardJam of Reel Whore. Maybe that's why there's such a mutual respect. He's also a champion for the LAMB and a damn cool guy, and that stuff doesn't hurt, either. Be sure to check out his pimp-tastic site if you haven't yet. Below, his wonderfully twisted take.

Before I submit my official entry into Cagefest, I want to be clear. I have no particular hatred for Nicolas Cage. Over the years, I have enjoyed more of his performances than you can count on one hand. But I can name just as many that still make me groan at their mere mention. Fletch has done well at selecting films that spark both reactions in me. I look forward to the pros and cons of Cage's cinematic contributions.

My criticism, and it is criticism, is for Mike Figgis's Leaving Las Vegas. Be forewarned that herein may lie spoilers, but if you haven't seen this film within the last twelve years, you've probably had good reason. If you didn't have one, let me give you a handful from which to choose.

I despised the depressing tone of Leaving Las Vegas over a decade ago when I saw it and my recent second viewing didn't change my mind. First off, Leaving barely utilizes Julian Sands, an actor at the top of his game in the nineties. You don't drop actors like R. Lee Ermey and Lou Rawls in for a weak cameo. The worst of it all is that this story is made even less palatable thanks to a littering of indigestible smooth jazz made insufferable as only Sting can.

Proponents of this film will be quick to mention the cache of awards and nominations it received. If you've seen even one awards show, you know voters often get it wrong. I'm not saying Cage wasn't deserving of his Oscar; his portrayal of the suicidal alcoholic Ben was erratically endearing in a twisted sort of way. I'd love to ask Mr. Cage why he never questioned the motivation of his character. We are led to believe Ben has been driven to drink himself to death because of deep-rooted depression at the loss of his wife. There have been some serious break-ups throughout history but I can't think of a single suicide spiral that couldn't be cured with some serious Shue loving! Elisabeth Shue plays Sera, Ben's soulmate, who happens to be a hooker. Seeing the bodacious babysitter turn tricks should have been a milestone in the memories of an entire generation of young adult males. Instead Figgis has our beloved Shue fall head over heels for a loser like Ben. Sure, he's charismatic, but no man, no matter how drunk, wouldn't sober up for a little of that action. The best Sera can hope for is to get groped and licked by Ben after she douses herself in booze. Pathetic. Actually, what's most pathetic is the only shared moment of physical passion ends with Ben blowing his load and checking out of this cruel world. Yeah, a world where Elisabeth Shue lovingly rapes me before I am allowed to die is cruel indeed. I blame you, Cage, for this whole debacle. After taking one look at your costar and the script, you should've called Figgis on the absurdity of the entire premise.

8 people have chosen wisely: on "CAGEFEST ENDS! The Nic Cage Film Festival - Leaving Las Vegas"

Fox said...

Is it me, Fletch, or at the end of this, does it finally seem like you've let good old Nicolas into your heart?

Awwww... happy endings!

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

Yeah, Fletch...what have you learned from all this.

I demand to know.

THN said...

First off, great job by everyone who participated. Even Gaylord. And really, I love the dude who did the Pro here if, for nothing else, he has a blog name drawn from ConAir.

Well done.

I, however, hate this movie. Sequels typically bomb, and this one did. I liked dumping Sarah Jessica Parker for Elisabeth Shue. But it's too big of a leap to go from this bumbling guy who loses a poker game to James Caan, to drinking himself to death. Couldn't he have just hooked up with the Flying Elvi again?

elgringo said...

"Be forewarned that herein may lie spoilers, but if you haven't seen this film within the last twelve years, you've probably had good reason. If you didn't have one, let me give you a handful from which to choose."

That made me so ready to read this post.

Farzan said...

Havent seen the flick, but good review

Daniel G. said...

"Is it me, Fletch, or at the end of this, does it finally seem like you've let good old Nicolas into your heart?"

Ha, I certainly hope not...

Fletch said...

What, you think I actually read these posts?


My feelings on old Nic are pretty firmly entrenched. A once promising, quirky actor that quickly sold out for the big bucks once the chance came. That in and of itself isn't evil (hell, most actors do it) - but Nic did it over and over and over again, almost totally eschewing his talent in favor of paydays and hair plugs. He learned well from his Face/Off costar, the reigning king of "running your career into the ground by never saying no and making 17 movies a year."

Sam Jackson ain't far behind...

Reel Whore said...

@elgringo - Thanks. I aim to please.

I wish I had been around when this went live. Fletch's right, blame Cage's failure on Travolta's influence.