Hollywood Theatre Series Celebrates the Best of Nicolas Cage

... before he won that dumb Oscar.

By Margaret Seiler January 8, 2020

Nicolas Cage via Elvis Presley in David Lynch's Wild at Heart.

Image: Courtesy MGM

In the advance of the January 24 opening of Nicolas Cage’s Color Out of Space, based on a story by H. P. Lovecraft, the Hollywood Theatre delivers “Cage Uncaged,” a screening series to celebrate what the art-house nonprofit declares the actor’s “greatest performances.”

While the 94-year-old Hollywood Theatre risks alienating those youngfolk who consider Cage’s late-’90s run of The Rock, Con-Air, and Face/Off to be the actor’s Holy Trinity, it will surely satisfy fans of Cage’s pre-Oscar oeuvre: after he graduated from supporting roles in movies directed by his famous uncle (Francis Ford Coppola—Cage is a stage name to avoid the appearance of nepotism), but before he turned into a Serious Actor and box-office-gold action star, a 180 brought about by his Oscar-winning performance as an alcoholic drinking himself to death in 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas.

Before that tragic win, a Nicolas Cage movie was a lot of fun. The Hollywood begins its series with the Coen brothers’ Raising Arizona (7 pm Friday, Jan 10), in which Cage plays a recidivist with a panty on his head whose bedroom eyes land on the heartbroken police officer (Holly Hunter) who takes his mugshot. Also on this weekend is the Elvis-infused 1990 David Lynch film Wild at Heart (in 35 mm, 7 pm Saturday and 9:30 pm Sunday, Jan 11–12), with Lynch regular Laura Dern delivering what might be the most memorable line of her long career when she calls his character’s name: “Sailor!”

The Hollywood showcases Cage’s first leading-man role (well, leading adolescent) with 1983’s Valley Girl, a star-crossed-lover homage to Romeo and Juliet (urban Hollywood punks and Valley teen socialites replace the Capulets and the Montagues). Directed by Martha Coolidge (Real Genius, Rambling Rose, The Prince and Me), the film has an incredible ’80s soundtrack that took more than a decade to release due to licensing issues.

Like many actors of his generation, Cage advanced his career in the ’80s by having his neck nibbled by a beautiful woman—in his case, the incandescent Jennifer Beals in Vampire’s Kiss (in 35 mm, 7:30 pm Monday, Jan 13). As his character frets that he may be becoming a vampire and basically tortures his poor secretary, Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso), we see snatches of the future power actor, but the over-the-topness is all played for laughs. (See also: Once Bitten, with a young Jim Carrey; Lost Boys, with a young Jason Patric; My Best Friend Is a Vampire, with a pre-Dead Poets Society Robert Sean Leonard, Lair of the White Worm, with a pre-Four Weddings and a Funeral Hugh Grant....)

Director John Dahl, whose recent work has mostly been in television (Dexter, Justified, The Walking Dead), will attend a screening January 18 of his tight 1993 noir western Red Rock West, which finds Cage’s drifter mistaken for a hitman in dust-blown small town. Cage himself was in Portland last fall filming Pig, in which he plays a truffle hunter looking for his kidnapped porcine partner. Will Pig be fun? Will it be more Honeymoon in Vegas (the Hollywood isn't screening this zany 1992 rom-com that seemed to be immediately remade as Indecent Proposal, but it would fit right in) or Leaving Las Vegas? We’ll have to wait and see.

Cage Uncaged at the Hollywood Theatre

Raising Arizona (1987), 7 pm Friday, Jan 10

Wild at Heart (1990) in 35 mm, 7 pm Saturday and 9:30 pm Sunday, Jan 11–12

Valley Girl (1983) in 35 mm, 7 pm Sunday, Jan 12

Vampire’s Kiss (1988) in 35 mm, 7:30 pm Monday, Jan 13

Red Rock West (1993) with director John Dahl in attendance, 7 pm Saturday, Jan 18

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