Even after 40 years of idiosyncratic line readings, spacetime-altering screams, and "I can't believe that's a real movie" career decisions, Nicolas Cage is still building his singular mythology. In 2019 alone, he starred in six new movies, one of which saw him trapped on a boat with both a jaguar and a terrorist.
The point is, he's Nic Cage, which is why it was such delightful news when he appeared in Oregon last year to film Pig, the forthcoming tale of a truffle hunter pursuing his kidnapped hog. It's roles like these that suggest the actor is still evolving, as recent indie standouts like Mandy and Mom and Dad deploy his facility with rogue lunatics in brazen new ways.
Maybe his career is just coming full circle. This month, Hollywood Theatre screens a series of iconic films from Cage's early years, revisiting his peculiar first starring role, as well as famously wild collaborations with David Lynch and the Coen brothers. Finally, it must be said, these selections force any writer previewing the series to ponder: Was Nicolas Cage…hot?
7 pm Friday, Jan. 10
In a daffy performance he claims was inspired by Woody Woodpecker, Cage meets his career-best foil in Holly Hunter. Of course, Raising Arizona is an early pre-polished Coen brothers favorite of any fan of the filmmakers' work. The harebrained 1987 kidnapping comedy has some cartoonish strands still running loose. Nic is one of them.
Wild at Heart, 35 mm
7 pm Saturday, 8:30 pm Sunday, Jan. 11-12
If there's a filmmaker whose work is distinct and bizarre enough to fully absorb Cage throwing with full heat, it's David Lynch. Debuting three years after Blue Velvet (1987) and just months after Twin Peaks aired on television (1990), Wild at Heart features a first hour of pure libido between joy-riding lovers Sailor (Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern). It's "hotter than Georgia asphalt," as Lula would say, and the romance holds even as Lynch disrupts the main narrative with disturbed anecdotes and editing.
Valley Girl, 35 mm
7 pm Sunday, Jan. 12
Martha Coolidge's 1983 teen comedy positions Cage as the heartthrob from the wrong side of Los Angeles. And with his heavy brow, soft smile and chest hair shaved into an equilateral V for seemingly no reason, maybe he is. Valley Girl holds many other pleasures as well: hyperspecific '80s pop, original slang like "trippin'-dicular," and an unabashed horniness that, in retrospect, is intriguing and gleeful.
Vampire's Kiss, 35 mm
7:30 pm Monday, Jan. 13
Responsible for arguably the pinnacle of Cage conniptions—his famously comprehensive alphabet recitation—Vampire's Kiss is its star's favorite of his own movies. That is, of course, a fittingly insane opinion. The 1988 psycho-tragedy of a yuppie maybe, sorta turning into a vampire is kookily sexual, then sadistic, then solipsistic and boring, then coked up as all hell. Whatever the quality, it's unquestionably some of Cage's best physical acting as he contorts into Nosferatu by way of Jay McInerney.
Red Rock West, featuring a Q&A with director John Dahl
7 pm Saturday, Jan. 18
Two years before he won the Oscar and three before he met Michael Bay, this knotty country noir testifies to Cage's more conventional star power. Playing a drifter with an unflinching moral code, he magnetizes the core of a mistaken-identity thriller surrounded by Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle and J.T. Walsh. And though we learn in the opening moments that our dusty hero has a harrowing injury, fear not: He still pounds out some one-armed pushups in the middle of a highway.
Color Out of Space
7:30 pm Wednesday, Jan. 22
Flash forward to the present and a now-56-year-old Cage finds new footing in interesting-looking genre fare. Opening officially at the Hollywood on Jan. 24, Color Out of Space is an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation by Richard Stanley, the wayward, mysterious director initially behind 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau. Truly anything is possible as Cage plays the patriarch of a family haunted by alien light—except boredom.