Friday, 11 April 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2009: Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Nicolas Cage did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Terence McDonagh the titular character of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

Werner Herzog's own Bad Lieutenant's name may sound like a bad straight to DVD release sequel, but its actually a very entertaining sorta re-make to 1992 film directed by Abel Ferrara with Harvey Keitel as the Bad Lieutenant.

The similarities in the two films are that they focus on the exploits of a bad Lieutenant who is tasked to solve one major crime while he indulges in sex, drugs, gambling, and all while abusing his power as a police officer. The earlier film was a very serious depiction of this troubled man, but in this case it goes for much more of a dark comedy type of approach to the material. The same goes for Cage's depiction of the Lieutenant which differs greatly from Keitel's work. The Lieutenant engages in the same behavior but in a vastly different fashion. Also I would say that this named Lieutenant, although definitely makes problematic decisions throughout the film, it is easy to see that he is far more competent individual than the unnamed Lieutenant who was completely incompetent in basically every single facet of his life.

 Nicolas Cage receive a bit of a bad rap these days with many calling him a terrible actor, but I think I would more of categorize him as a wasted actor. Yes he's in plenty of bad films due to his lack of selectivity, but so is Gary Oldman for the same basic reason. Cage when he really goes for a role, like in his two Oscar nominated performances, he goes all in which thankfully is the case here. There is no really reason to compare him to Keitel because he does not go for anything like Keitel's great performance. This is mainly a comic performance by Cage. That is not to say he is going for laughs directly even once, but Cage knows what he is doing. Cage was probably the absolute perfect choice for the role as this Lieutenant is someone you should never be able to guess what he is going to do next much like a Nicolas Cage performance.

It is funny in that in terms of the drug problem with this Lieutenant you might actually be able to attribute it, at least in part, to his his back pain which Cage illustrates quite well through a constant hunch. The Lieutenant is never off any single drug through the film and Cage can practically make you see it coursing through his veins through the certain malaise that he gives him. There is always something working through his system and Cage rather brilliant brings this through his performance as any highs or lows seem on a physical level as well as a mental one. When for example he abuses some young people outside of a club for drugs his sleazy style is that of a lowly addict just constantly pleading for drugs, but Cage cleverly subverts but still having the appropriate command that still is what you may expect from a normal cop handling the situation.

Cage is never set to set a scene in just a scene lay down as there is a constant energy he brings to role that is effective as it is always in character for the manic nature of his character. Even when the character comes down from one of his highs Cage even manages to that with some great gusto. Some of my favorite scenes though are when Lieutenant McDonagh proves himself far more capable than the original Lieutenant such as one scene where he goes through one house to sneak behind one the murder suspects they are after. Cage is great in the scene once he catches the man as it is a truly intense high he presents in the Lieutenant from his accomplishment. It is not just that of the success but Cage puts the drugs right in there to as the Lieutenant is not doubt on the up swing when it comes to whatever he had possibly ingested most recently.

One of the most interesting things I found watching this performance is how likable Cage manages to make the Lieutenant despite the fact that the bad is definitely earned as torturing old ladies is not even out of the question if it meets his demands. Cage succeeds well in two points in this regard. One being that he does have so much fun in the role and he properly channels that at the right times to concise for any particular success the Lieutenant may be having. Another reason though is the comic manner Cage has. He is pretty spot on in all manners that he takes in this regard. On one side one will be a little broader moment that he makes work because he has set up the Lieutenant to be just this spontaneous. Anything does go for the Lieutenant it seems and Cage completely makes that work often to a rather hilarious degree.

There are two particularly fantastic moments for Cage in that regard. One being when he threatens his new criminal associates for his cut in a criminal bargain. Cage goes from possibly killing them type insanity to a joking jubilation so naturally that is riotous. The other scene though is when he uses the murderers he's suppose to be catching to kill another set of gangsters that he has crossed in some way. After the murders the Lieutenant hallucinates one of their souls break dancing afterwards ordering his associates to shoot the man again to stop it. That might go on the too absurd side but Herzog and Cage make it work. Cage's is expression is awesome in nature as his totally gone expression seems to honestly be that of a man who is in fact seeing a break dancing soul. That is not all there is though to Cage here.   

Cage oddly enough goes from insanity to a calmer at times in such an extreme way yet only fitting for the character that he has developed. Cage even manages to bring humor to some technically dark scenes, like letting some men have their way with his prostitute girlfriend. In this case he does in such a matter of fact way that he allows the blackness of the situation to have the right tinge of farce to stop it from becoming a little too serious. This is not to say Cage is even all fun and games, even if there is plenty of that to go around. There is a strange underlying heart that Cage suggests that is underlying in any scene where the lieutenant must actually do the right thing. There is no confession scene like in the other film yet Cage still manages to subtly suggest the good man behind the very bad one.

Before writing this review I thought perhaps a 4.5 for Cage here, but as I've gone through all that I liked about his performance I have had an even greater appreciate for his work here. This is Cage probably at his very best as he goes for broke and gets the appropriate pay off in return. Cage never becomes dour he never becomes even slightly uninteresting for a second. There is always something he brings to the part and his twisted comedic nature makes the film soar far more than if an actor took a more straight forward, and to be honest less Cagey, approach really the film may have been a complete failure. Cage matches the style exactly as he should and gives a incredibly enjoyable performance. This definitely might not be everyone's cup of tea I suspect but I have to admit I loved it.


Anonymous said...

Who did you prefer? Cage or Kietel?

luke higham said...

Louis:ratings & thoughts for the rest of the cast.

Michael Patison said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on:
Elizabeth Taylor & Sandy Dennis in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Julie Christie in McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Shirley MacLaine & Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment

I tried to ask only about movies I'm sure (pretty positive, at least) that you've seen.

Have you seen The Umbrellas of Cherbourg? I don't think you have because it's male lead isn't on your 1964 line-up. Anyway, I thought Catherine Deneuve was terrific in it, and I absolutely adored the film. I won't go so far as to recommend it, though, since it's the epitome of a musical with every ounce of dialogue done in recitative. It's also not really worth your time as far as male performances are concerned. They should have cast somebody else in the two male leads, my casting choices would have been Jacques Perrin in place of Castelnuovo and Philippe Noiret or Jean-Louis Trintignant in place of Marc Michel.

Kevin said...

Glad you loved this performance as much as I did. And since you reviewed Wiseau in The Room, will you be reviewing Cage for his absolutely legendary performance in The Wicker Man for 2006?

Michael Patison said...

Another question: for the years in which you gave 5s to multiple women in the same category, who would you give the win to? I'll list the years and candidates so you just have to read, choose, and type instead of trying to remember who you had stated earlier.

1940 Lead: Joan Fontaine in Rebecca or Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

1940 Supporting: Judith Anderson in Rebecca or Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath

1951 Lead: Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire or Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun (I feel like I know which you'll say, but you surprised us in the male category of this same year with the same two films)

1962 Lead: Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker, Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses, or Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth

1962 Supporting: Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker or Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate

1965 Lead: Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue or Samantha Eggar in The Collector

1966: Bibi Andersson or Liv Ullmann in Persona

1967 Lead: Anne Bancroft in The Graduate or Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde

1968 Supporting: Ruth Gordon in Rosemary's Babe or Lynn Carlin in Faces

1971 Lead: Geraldine Page in The Beguiled or Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me

1974 Lead: Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence or Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (I personally put Dunaway in the supporting category as I felt she wasn't in the film enough to warrant lead categorization, plus all of her scenes seemed to be from Jack's POV, but the film really needs a rewatch)

1980 Lead: Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter or Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People

1985 Supporting: Madeline Kahn or Lesley Ann Warren in Clue

1986 Supporting: Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet or Sigourney Weaver in Aliens

1991 Lead: Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs or Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise

1995 Lead: Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking or Kathy Bates in Dolores Claiborne

1996 Lead: Frances McDormand in Fargo, Brenda Blethyn in Secrets & Lies, or Pam Grier in Jackie Brown

2003 Lead: Nicole Kidman in Dogville or Charlize Theron in Monster

Psifonian said...

An absolutely, thrillingly beautiful bit of work from an exciting actor (when he's on). It's like watching Jimmy Stewart on heroin in the best way possible.

Michael McCarthy said...

I thought he overdid it in the scene where he's high and he's telling the story about the guy with antlers. Other than that, I thought he hit all the right notes and played the role effectively without his usual overacting.

Is it too early to hope for five fives?

Matt Mustin said...

Pretty much exactly what you want from a Nicolas Cage performance.

Michael Patison said...

I was just looking at Louis's multiple nominees page and had a question: who do people think will end up with the most nominations without a win when all of the years are completed?

I'm thinking either Kirk Douglas (8), Michael Caine (7), Claude Rains (7), Clint Eastwood (10), or Jack Nicholson (8). Here's why:
Douglas is running out of win-worthy performances. Sure, he still has Lust for Life, but I think he'll be very hard-pressed to keep his win over John Wayne in The Searchers. Other than that, I can't really think of many win-worthy performances from him. So maybe 9-11 total winless nominations.
Caine, as far as I'm aware, though I might be missing a performance or two, is fresh out of opportunities. As such, he probably won't be the highest winless guy, but I thought I'd include him anyway. I'm thinking maybe 8 or 9 winless nominations.
Rains, as we all know, has 1 more shot at a win left in Notorious, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he's dethroned by Lionel Barrymore in It's a Wonderful Life. I could be wrong, and he could dethrone Van Heflin and take the win for Now, Voyager, but I doubt it. He's bound to show up several more times as a nominee, though, so he's probably in for 10-12.
Eastwood is probably going to be the winner, as he has few, if any, great performances left, but probably a couple that will get him further noms, putting him at a grand total of 12-13.
Nicholson will probably be either the winner or the runner-up to Eastwood as all of his performances seem to be runners-up, and most of his win-worthy work has already passed.

Here's some guys with high numbers of winless nominations who will win:
James Stewart for It's a Wonderful Life (currently at 9)
James Mason for The Verdict (currently at 10)
Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot (currently at 6)

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm not sure James Mason is a shoe-in for The Verdict with Rutger Hauer's Blade Runner performance in the running. I also don't think Kirk Douglas or Claude Rains should be dethroned for their current wins. I'm thinking you're probably right about Eastwood, if we're considering top 10's, if it's top 5's than it'll be Jack.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Mason will probably end up losing to Hauer. To be honest, he kind of should.

Michael Patison said...

Michael & Robert: Oh, you're probably right about Mason. To be honest, I 100% forgot about Hauer. If Mason loses there, I'd say he'll end up with the most noms and no wins.

Michael: I'm not saying I think either should lose, I'm merely guessing. The Douglas-Wayne competition will be fierce, I would guess. Rains seems the more likely of the two to be dethroned, simply because I remember seeing Louis rank Barrymore's performance as one of his top 5 portrayals of a villain ever and I don't think Rains was on the list.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Anyone else see Captain America: Winter Soldier?

Michael Patison said...

I haven't but I heard it was surprisingly good.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: I'll guess I'll say Keitel, but both a great in completely different ways.


Mendes - 3(She solid enough and I rather liked that she played her character as more of a willful participant rather than some sort of complainer)

Bower - 2.5(I feel he could have perhaps done a little more with his role, but he's still alright)

Coolidge - 3(She's rather good as another different addict in the film and she does well by playing her character's alcoholic behavior as wholly different in terms of manner from the drug addicts)

Kilmer - 3(I actually could have gone for much more of him as he played well off of Cage as another sleazy cop, but Kilmer adds a nice extra bit of cynicism to differentiate himself from Cage's performance)

Dourif - 3(I liked liked seeing him here and he did a pretty good job of being the low key by sightly intense bookie. Simply well done work)

Xzibit - 3(Also good enough once again and does pretty well in playing the confused, oddly enough, straight man to some of Cage's craziest moments)

Whigham - 3(I know someone who reacts just just as the way Whigham plays his character's, and I thought that was pretty hilarious.)


Taylor - 4.5(I suppose this is controversial. I do think she has a strong visceral sting in her performance that is more than fitting for the shrill wife, and she is good in her quieter scenes but I feel she could have brought a little more nuance to the loud scenes to make her quieter moments all the effective

Dennis - 2.5(The more times I've seen the film the less and less I've liked her. Her whole performance is far too much of just that which includes everything before she was drunk even. She over plays every moment early on and that only gets worse as she goes on with every tic becoming even more over emphasized than the last)

Christie - 4.5(Christie very good in the part in a rather underplayed sort of way. You believe her concerns and even her love for Beatty's character even though she keeps so well muted through her excellent depiction of her character's addiction)

MacLaine - 4.5(I'm not really a fan of the film and MacLaine does play it a tad too knowing at times, but overall she does give an effective portrayal of the boisterous lady past her prime, and affecting portrayal of motherly love.)

Winger - 4.5(Out of the two I actually prefer Winger over MacLaine as I don't think she ever needlessly showboats. She gives a fairly honest and endearing portrayals of her's characters problems as mother, daughter and wife and is genuine in her differing portrayal of each facet)

I have not seen The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Louis Morgan said...

1940- Fontaine

1940 - Darwell

1951 - Leigh

1962 - Page

1962 - Lansbury since Duke is lead.

1965 - Hartman

1966 - Andersson

1967 - Bancroft

1968 - Gordon

1971 - Walter

1974 - Dunaway

1980 - Spacek

1985 - Kahn

1986 - Rossellini would be my winner in Supporting and Weaver would be my winner in lead.

1991 - Foster

1995 - Bates

1996 - Frances McDormand

2003 - Theron

Michael Patison said...

Since Duke is Lead (as she should be), would you still give the win to Page?

RatedRStar said...

Claude Rains will not be getting dethroned by anyone he was ranked the 6th greatest oscar nominated supporting performance by Louis, so I doubt he will lose. People kinda need to see Notorious so that they will get it in their head that he will not be getting dethroned by Barrymore who is no where near as good, not even close, he is no where near as complex and 3 dimensional.

RatedRStar said...

I am hoping you will get to 46 soon Louis so that this discussion about Rains losing will come to an end, Rains is a better actor than Barrymore, always has been, Notorious is nothing without Rains, it is his film, a worthy final nomination which he should have and will win.

RatedRStar said...

I also predict Heflin to beat Rains, Mason to beat Hauer, Clift to beat Mason, and Douglas to beat Wayne.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert: I watched it and I liked it quite a bit actually.

Michael Patison: Page would be my win.

luke higham said...

Louis: your ratings & thoughts for the cast of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Also, are there any other films from 2014, that you've seen.

Michael McCarthy said...

Has anyone else seen The Grand Budapest Hotel? I saw it Friday and thought it was excellent, and that Fiennes would be more than deserving of a review.

luke higham said...

I would say at the moment, Brendan Gleeson & Matthew Mcconaughey are both locks, for a review in Calvary & Interstellar, while Ralph Fiennes and Joaquin Phoenix are high possibilities for both Grand Budapest Hotel & Inherent Vice.

Matt Mustin said...

I don't know how you can assume McConaughey is a lock, without knowing what kind of character he's playing or the quality of his performance.

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: Well, it might be a very early prediction, but McConaughey is in the middle of an amazing streak, as well as being in the lead role for the most anticipated film of the year, despite the lack of details for the role so far.

Despite my opinion, would you agree that McConaughey is a high possibility for a review

Matt Mustin said...

Luke: Honestly, no, not yet, simply because Nolan protagonists don't have a great track record of being reviewed here.

luke higham said...

Matt Mustin: Well, we'll leave this for another day, but I'm kind of convinced, that Louis will give Gleeson a 5 for Calvary.

Matt Mustin said...

Oh, Gleeson will definitely be reviewed.

luke higham said...

Louis: There are two films from the first third of 2014, that I would recommend putting on your to watch list.

I'll put the main performance in Brackets for you

Locke (Thriller starring Tom Hardy)

Starred Up (Prison Drama starring Ben Mendolsohn & Jack O'Connell)

Louis Morgan said...


Captain America:

Evans - 3.5(Although I am really tempted to go with a four. He came into his own so well here and expresses the inspirational nature of his character well without becoming in anyway dull)

Mackie - 3(He just needed to be enthusiastic, and he definitely brings more than enough of that here)

Jackson - 3(His best performance as Nick Fury as I finally got much more investment from him than I felt in his earlier performances despite it being a role that was literally drawn for him)

Johansson - 2.5(I did not think she was bad but the lack of the accent here is still a sour point for me. I mean it is possible to do a non-cartoony Russian accent just as Viggo Mortensen)

Redford - 3.5(I actually liked that he did not overplay the role in anyway. Instead he played it as if he had replaced Cliff Robertson in Three Days of the Condor)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Come on, Johansson was at least a 3.5. It's so far and ahead her best outing as Black Widow that it's not even funny.

Louis Morgan said...

I agree it's her best outing, but I still find her pretty bland in the role.