6 May 2020

Cage Fighting With The Cosmos

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During one of the earlier scenes in director Richard Stanley's latest film Color Out Of Space, Nicholas Cage decides to milk one of his many alpaca's before drinking it straight down before it has chance to cool. Did you hear that? Nicholas Cage squeezes milk out of an alpaca's tits before instantly guzzling it down to enjoy its freshness. Nicholas Cage. An Alpaca's tits. He drinks its milk. I think it was at that point that I decided that this might be one of my new favourite films of all time. What was cinema even invented for if not to see Nicholas Cage fondling a random animal's nipples before necking back whatever liquid he manages to get out of it? How can art ever top this? What are they going to do next? Will they make a sequel in which he wanks off a pig? According to Cage's character, alpacas are “the animals of the future”, and although he never explains his reasoning for this, my belief in his performance is such that I've now got ten on order. Will I milk them as Cage does here? Of course I fucking will. Will I name one after him when they arrive? Why the Hell wouldn't I? What's the point in having a pet alpaca if you can't then offer guests a glass of milk squeezed fresh from Nicholas Cage's hanging nipples? Color Out Of Space is the kind of movie that delivers exactly what it says on the tin and not only does it not disappoint but as with Cage's own ability to over-act, it goes above and beyond. What a fucking film. 

Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, Color Out Of Space begins with Cage, his wife, and their three children living alone in the woods with their alpacas. Did I mention the alpacas? At one point Cage milks them and drinks it all down. Amazing. The daughter of the family is a witch too in case you feel that's something that you might want to know. Not a proper witch that can do real magic but one of those stupid real-life ones that draw chalk pictures on the ground before presumably trying to fuck a pot plant. Not that it matters, I suppose. The fact that she's a witch plays almost no part in the actual plot which might explain the vibe of the movie. It's about a normal family that are just minding their own business with pentagrams and alpaca milk until one night they encounter a strange light that arrives from out of space. In the original Lovecraft story that the film is based on, this colour is described as falling outside the range of anything known within the visible spectrum and described only through euphemism. That might work on the page but how could you possibly depict this unheard-of colour on screen? This could be a real challenge for any filmmaker. It's almost impossible to think about how they could have solved this problem? What a predicament...    ...It's pink. They just picked pink. 

Once this pink colour arrives, some strange things begin to take place, which is saying something when you consider how fucking odd everything had been up until now. Some of the criticisms of this movie have been that because of how weird everything initially was any way, the descent into a more cosmic oddness doesn't seem as striking as it probably should. Those criticisms are bullshit. Things had reached such an insane level of fucking lunacy by the first hour that I had to pause the film to see how much longer was left because I couldn't imagine it escalating any further. You can imagine my excitement then when it turned out that there was still fifty fucking minutes to go and at no point did it ever take its foot off the accelerator. The strange light alters everything around it with plants beginning to sprout weird pumpkin-tomatoes, animals casually losing their skin, and the family descending into full-blown madness. It's not easy to feel pure joy in our piece of shit world and especially during a time in which we're encouraged to social distance from our loved ones and our dealers. At this point we're in the middle of the Coronavirus outbreak, my dog has just died, and whilst everybody else in the UK is being paid 80% of their wages to stay at home I'm still having to go to fucking work. But this movie had me clapping like a fucking sea-lion with Parkinson's because of how happy it made me. When Cage got so angry that he told his young daughter to repeatedly “fuck off” before getting into his car to punch the ceiling and scream I felt like phoning somebody just to tell them that I could remember what glee felt like again. 

I should possibly confess at this point that I think that Cage might be one of the greatest actors of all time. Or at the very least one of the most interesting. He's a big A-List name and yet he just does not seem to give one solitary shit about how he might come across on screen. Whereas most major celebrities have a PR team to maintain their image, it's as though Cage hasn't even had the thought, “I hope I don't embarrass myself today”. Cage is what might happen if Harrison Ford and Klaus Kinski got into the teleporter from The Fly and an action hero with the brain of a fucking weirdo came out the other side. Just look at his performance in Kick-Ass in which all he was asked to do was to play a superhero and yet even then he couldn't resist doing it in the style of Adam West as he was having a fucking stroke. Of course, Cage can do 'normal' acting having won an Oscar for his heartbreaking performance as the suicidal alcoholic in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas. But although there are loads of actors that can do that kind of thing, it's only Cage that can get away with the style of acting that he calls, “Nouveau Shamanic”. I have no idea what “Nouveau Shamanic acting” means but he did once describe it during an interview for the Ghost Rider sequel by explaining that he'd stitched ancient Egyptian artefacts into his costume whilst drawing inspiration from his pet cobra. So that explains that I suppose. 

Of course, Cage's performances don't always work on screen as can be seen from the myriad of YouTube videos in which his notorious 'Cage Rages' have been edited into a thing of insane beauty. I have a theory that there are three types of Nicolas Cage performance which are 'boring', 'brilliantly mad', and 'a bit too mad'. I suspect the boring ones are the ones that he agrees to do right after the invoice for his latest castle or the fucking dinosaur skull that he's just bought comes in and he panics. At their peak, they would be something like Knowing and at their worst they'd be whatever the fuck The Humanity Bureau is. The ones that are 'a bit too mad' are when he's doing one of the more oddball performances that he's also described as “western kabuki” or “mega-acting” but with a more inexperienced director that's failed to rein him in. As weird as Cage might be, he still claims that “my job is to facilitate the director's vision. If there's something I'm doing that they don't agree with, I drop it”. All you have to do is look at his work with the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Ridley Scott, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese for proof of what can happen when his gonzo-style meets a visionary that's capable of understanding it. I do appreciate how trying to work out whether or not Nicolas Cage is a good actor might have pushed Community's Abed towards a full-blown breakdown. But after seeing Color Out Of Space I think it's safe to say that Richard Stanley can also add his name to that list of people that understand what to do with him. Possibly because in his own way Stanley is just as fucking mad himself. 

Having been absent from cinema for the best part of two and a half decades Stanley was a director that had somewhat slipped me by. He made a couple of films in the early nineties that led to a cult following before becoming one of the many casualties of 1996's The Island Of Dr Moreau. By all accounts, Stanley was fired from that for clashing with actor Val Kilmer who he justifiably perceived as having been given too much creative power over the production. Kilmer wanted a treehouse built for his character to live in and when Stanley pointed out that this idea hadn't featured anywhere in the script the actor didn't take it too well. This is a film that has gone down in history for its behind the scenes chaos with Marlon Brando even appearing as a character that wears a metal bucket for a hat whilst being accompanied everywhere he goes by a dwarf. This wasn't in the script either but Stanley was gone by the time Brando turned up and I suppose his replacement had to be a little more open-minded to these random requests after the treehouse incident. Stanley's firing had enraged the director so much that he decided to destroy his office and notes to ensure that nobody would be able to use his ideas once he'd left. In a panic the studio had him dragged to a nearby airport only for him to escape his escorts before they could force him onto a plane. With no idea of where he'd gone, it was later revealed that Stanley had fled to a nearby jungle where he'd spent two months “living under a tree with dingo-pups” whilst surviving on “coconuts and cannabis” before eventually sneaking back onto the movies set in disguise. He began work as an extra and appears in the finished film as a part-man/part-dog creature cavorting about in one of the shots only a few feet behind Val Kilmer. 

I can't say how Color Out Of Space compares to Stanley's other films because I've sadly never seen them. But by the sheer fact that he remained director for the entire production I suppose we can at least conclude that both he and Cage were on the same page when it came to treehouses. Of course, Stanley hired a warlock to perform a blood magic spell before making The Island Of Dr Moreau and of course he had an occult supervisor working on the set of this film with Cage. You have to get that magic right before making a movie I guess. Although perhaps on Dr Moreau it might have helped to read the Warlocks small print first. Color Out Of Space is not a film that has any intention of achieving mainstream success and I think that's why I love it. Does this film have any substance? Not really. Not beyond highlighting how insignificant we all are within the grand scheme of things and I'm fully of aware of that feeling from the second I open my piece of shit eyes every morning anyway. Although Cage's 2018 film Mandy might be his magnum opus, Color Out Of Space does show the range of batshittery that he's capable of with his madness perfectly balanced against the eye-burningly gorgeous Lovecraftian apocalypse that's taking place on the screen. Not that any of that matters I suppose. At the end of the day, I suspect you knew whether or not you'd like this movie from the second that I mentioned that Cage drinks milk straight from the alpaca's tits. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time. 

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