While visiting some good friends in Connecticut this past weekend, I was drawn into a heated discussion about film and cinematic stars.
While most movie debates are centered around who or what is “The Best,” I was intrigued when our conversation shifted in the opposite direction. My friends and I were busy discussing some of the worst films we’ve ever seen, and this naturally made me think about some of the Hollywood heroes who should be held responsible for these atrocities.
One individual whose films routinely came up was eccentric American actor Nicolas Cage. His “work” in lamentable recent flicks like Ghost Rider, Next, Knowing (not a sequel to Next), and Bangkok Dangerous make Cage an easy target for criticism. However, it’s unfair to simply call Nic a “bad actor.” When reflecting on Cage’s career (he’s been in over sixty films), the guy has proven he can carry both big budget action movies (the two National Treasures, Face/Off, The Rock, Gone in Sixty Seconds, etc.) as well as enjoyable comedies and dark human dramas (Matchstick Men, Adaptation, The Family Man, The Weather Man, and his Oscar-winning vehicle Leaving Las Vegas). Still, despite having a diverse body of work consisting primarily of profitable and very entertaining pictures, it’s also unfair to call Nicolas Cage a “great actor.”
Therefore, after careful analysis, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that Nicolas Cage is quite simply The Greatest Bad Actor in American History. Few stars are as inherently likeable as Cage. Hell, if I were to compile a list of the Most Innately Likeable Veteran Actors, I’d place him in the # 2 slot, behind only Tom Hanks, yet slightly ahead of the recently arrested Charlie Sheen (comic Bill Maher once said that Sheen could “beat a nun to death in a pile of dead puppies and America would just go, ‘Oh that Charlie we love him he’s hysterical!’). Like Sheen, Cage is also currently facing legal issues (he is reportedly broke, yet owes millions of dollars to the IRS for his alleged role a property tax fraud scheme), yet he too will always maintain a level of public immunity because of his natural charisma.
Nobody can convey an heir of goofy self confidence like Nicolas Cage, and this is what has made him (and most of his movies) memorable and respected. He is so freakin’ charming that we forget about things like his dreadful attempt at using a southern accent as jailbird Cameron Poe in 1997’s Con Air (arguably The Greatest Bad Movie in American History…depending on whether or not you like it more than Top Gun) and his back-to-back “Razzie” nominations for “Worst Actor” in 2006 and 2007.
***Above is an outstanding skit from “Studio 60,” one of the more underappreciated television programs in recent history. This is not actually Nic Cage, by the way.
If Nicolas Cage is the “Best of the Worst” in film, who holds this title in other cultural spheres?
In music, I proudly give the award of Greatest Bad Rock Stars to Bon Jovi! While Jon Bon Jovi and his bandmates have sold countless records, it’s impossible to consider them as one of the best mainstream bands of the last twenty years. Like most good Nicolas Cage movies, their hit songs are easy to love and remember, yet not really worthy of any serious acclaim. Now I’m not saying I don’t love classics like “Livin’ On A Prayer,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive,” but Bon Jovi’s dreams of reaching E Street Band-like heights of cultural relevancy have not, and will never come to fruition. If you disagree with me, re-listen to the lyrics of “It’s My Life,” and you’ll come to your senses.
The Greatest Bad TV Show of today has to be Law & Order. No show is more formulaic, predictable, and unspectacular. Ironically, it’s these three traits that make it regularly watchable and so very popular with the masses. The days of the great American network police drama may very well be over (this era probably ended with the conclusion of NYPD Blue), so for better or worse, we’re stuck with L&O, CSI, NCIS, and other mediocre acronyms.
As social commentators, we are generally too cut-and-dry. We tend to judge things based on where they fit in relation to conventional extremes. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate our criteria, and modify the lens by which we see and value culture. Most people think that people and content are either good or bad. I, however, believe that the bad can also be great.