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Date: 4:02 AM, 04/10/14
Nicolas Cage at his finest article

Nicolas Cage at his finest 

By ROBERT LEVIN April 8, 2014 

He's been the subject of several memes and viral videos and an extended "Saturday Night Live" parody. These days, he's better known for gleefully over-acting and scraping the bottom of the B-movie barrel than his Oscar win for "Leaving Las Vegas."' 
Sean Penn once derided him as a "performer" rather than "an actor." 
But Nicolas Cage is a legitimately great talent, not just an object of pop-cultural fascination or a vessel for action movieschlock. For proof of Cage's enduring appeal, check out his starring role in "Joe," a new film from David Gordon Green hitting theaters Friday. It's his best work in years. 
These are some past performances that also showcase this one-of-a-kind talent at his best: 
H.I. McDunnough, "Raising Arizona" (1987) 
Cage is such a perfect actor for the Coen Brothers that it's surprising this off-kilter black comedy about a couple kidnapping a wealthy baby remains their only collaboration. 
Peter Loew, "Vampire's Kiss" (1989) 
Yeah, yeah, this is over-the-top Cage at his most over-the-top, but it's also a sterling example of cinematic performance art, in which the star transforms a mundane modern-day neo-vampire flick into the stuff of jaw-dropping, hilarious legend. 
Ben Sanderson, "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995) 
The actor deservedly won an Oscar for his brilliant work at the heart of Mike Figgis' bleak film about a man drinking himself to death in Las Vegas. It's a performance rife with incalculable pain and despair. 
Charlie Kaufman/Donald Kaufman, "Adaptation" (2002) 
Cage plays the screenwriter's alter ego (and his "twin") in this self-reflexive film from Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze,earning an Oscar nomination for embodying the character's complex neuroses. 
David Spritz, "The Weather Man" (2005) 
The actor has always had a knack for dark comedy and he masters the put-upon, regular-guy weather man suffering personal crises on multiple fronts in this Gore Verbinski film. 
Terence McDonagh, "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009) 
Werner Herzog, a masterful portrayer of madness, is another ideal Cage collaborator. The duo finally worked together on this re-imagining of the 1992 film "Bad Lieutenant" and the result is an oddball effort that gets the essence of the hothouse Louisiana setting. 


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