I was attending concerts long before I entered elementary school. By the time I was learning to drive I had also begun booking concerts in my small town. There was never any question in my mind as to whether or not a career in entertainment was my dream, it was only a matter of how and when.
One door lead to another and within a year of graduating college I was employed full-time in the business I had followed for as long as I could remember. For the first time in my life the only thing I needed to think about was entertainment. It was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not to mention my late night snack. It was my hobby, with projects like freelance music writing and running a record label being things that filled the gaps between the projects that actually paid the bills.
There’s a reason most cultures have a saying in regards to refraining from too much of a good thing. When you have endless access to the thing you want the most you soon find yourself struggling to maintain the passion you once had. You gain a sort of tolerance to experience, ever so slightly exchanging the rush of excitement that comes with entertainment for calculations about the product that is entertainment in any form.
I was living the life I always wanted, consuming and covering more entertainment than ever, but I was also fighting harder and harder to stay engaged. A great movie quickly became an inner monologue about filmmaking techniques and profit margins. Concerts were viewed not through the lens of a unique moment, but rather as money generating machines dictating where artists, vendors, events, and venues of all kinds fell on the food chain of the so-called ‘gig economy.’ It was all interesting and it lead to some great conversations, not to mention content aplenty, but it did not give me that pure rush of endorphins that made me connect with entertainment of all forms in the first place.
Then one night about a year ago, after another night out covering some event for some publication, I found myself sitting on my couch watching a late night cable television broadcast of Con Air. The film, for those who have not yet experienced it, follows a newly paroled ex-con and former U.S. Ranger named Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) who finds himself trapped in a prisoner transport plane when the passengers seize control. That’s right. Con Air is a movie where prisoners take over an airplane and attempt to make a play for freedom while Nicolas Cage does what he can to get the situation under control so he can make a safe return to his family. It’s bonkers crazy in the best possible way, and now more than two decades after the film went into production it holds up surprisingly well.
It wasn’t until the next day that I realized watching Con Air the night prior was the first viewing of any movie in some time I could really getting genuinely lost in. Despite having seen the film several time before at various point in my life I was just as engaged as ever, devouring each line of ridiculous dialogue and cheering for the finale set along the Vegas strip. I was enamored with every moment and I figured there was one man I had to thank more than anyone else: Nicolas Cage.
Nicolas Cage has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I don’t know the first time I saw him in a film, but I have memories connected to even his lesser hits (who else still thinks about It Could Happen To You) that I’ve learned will likely stay with me for as long as I walk this Earth. He provides for me the kind of escape I suspect running, drinking, dancing, reality television, cooking, politics, sports, hoarding, fantasy football, gambling, knitting, and a whole gaggle of other things do for people who are not me. If none of these applies to you feel free to insert your own here: _____________.
The more I thought about this concept of escapism and the role Nicolas Cage played in it the more I started gravitating toward his work whenever time allowed. I had about 15 titles in my home video collection already, many of which had been viewed several times over, so I almost immediately had to turn to Netflix. For a man with over 70 film credits you would not believe the lack of readily available Cage material on most streaming platforms. If you have money to spend you can rent virtually everything, which I did for a bit, but then I developed a far more difficult - and ultimately much more fun - way to make the most of my Cage experience.
Starting that day, someone in the early part of 2016, I began to pursue ownership of every film Nicolas Cage had every made on Blu-ray or DVD (depending on availability). I don’t know why it sounded good at the time, but for whatever reason it was the kind of mindless time-consuming escape I needed to recharge my mind and spirit for work. Every bad album, concert, or film screening was just one more assignment before I could continue my crusade for the films of Nicolas Cage. It wasn’t much, but it was - and continues to be - enough to lift my spirits.
Over the last year I have been to pawn shops, video stores, Goodwills, garage sales, and even a few flea markets in my quest to own the work of Nicolas Cage. A few items were admittedly bought from Amazon and eBay early on, but I realized that using digital means to purchase the films would eliminate an element of the fun I desperately wanted to experience. There is nothing like the thrill of the hunt, especially when you are hunting movies from twenty or thirty years ago that may have been considered complete bombs when they opened. You never know what will turn up, and almost everything has a story to tell.
A few highlights from the last year:
- Journeying to the largest remaining video store in my state, one of the biggest in North America, and thumbing through a collection of more than 3,000 used movies to purchase Kiss of Death and Snake Eyes, which lead to a hilarious conversation with the store twenty-something clerk who claimed to love Cage like no other.
- Discovering a used media store at a mall in Harrisburg, PA amidst an otherwise disastrous business trip that miraculously had a copy of Trapped In Paradise sitting in a clearance bin. I also picked up a Criterion Collection DVD release of The Rock this day, which sparked several more Cage-related conversations with consumers in line. Some remembered seeing the films, while others never knew Dana Carvey and Nicolas Cage once played brothers in a movie.
- Locating a Blu-ray copy of G-Force, a bizarre animated film where Cage voices a Mole named Speckles who is part of a top secret team of super animals, and watching it with my significant other - a first for both of us.
- Spending more than an hour talking all things Cage with Deanna Chapman for her awesome podcast, Welcome To Geekdom.
- Having countless people tweet Nicolas Cage news, photos, videos, and memes at me on a regular basis (and increasing frequency).
Not every film has been a hit. In fact, a couple are so bad at shudder at the thought of watching them in full again, but each performance Cage delivers is something I am happy to have seen. It is clear in every phase of his career, from nobody to somebody and on to whatever he is today, that Cage loves what he is doing above all. He is living the life he wants to live, and in doing so taking the risks he wants to take whenever he wants to take them. Does it all work? Of course not. But that does not stop him from signing on to something else and swinging for the fences once more.
Earlier this year I began documenting my Cage addition on Twitter using the hashtag #CageCrusade. I also made a spreadsheet to better manage my catalog of Cage, which you are welcome to view whenever you desire. At the time of this post I have 25 titles left to find, in addition to several more titles that have yet to be released.
Maybe this should go without saying, but I was raised to ask for the things you want:
If you own any of the films I have yet to find, please take a minute and contact me. I’ll pay you for the movie, cover shipping, and write you a personal thank you letter. I’d love to know your connection with the film as well. When did you get? How? Was it a gift? Does it mean something to you? Contact me.
I know I might not finish this list, just I know I may get sick of my DVD collection and sell everything before Nicolas Cage stops working. I also know an asteroid could destroy everything and everyone on the planet, but like the possibility I will someday get bored with Cage I must continue on. As it stands, nothing gives me the feeling of pure amusement that I seek in all forms of entertainment like a Nicolas Cage performance I have yet to see. (Most of) The ones I have seen are still pretty good, too.
This life is crazy. I may only be on the cusp of thirty, but I’ve experienced enough to know we have to find joy where we can and cherish it for as long as we are able. I’m not saying Nicolas Cage will be that for you, but I do think you need to find your Nicolas Cage. Find the thing that makes you inexplicably happy and allow it to steal a bit of your time. Do something for you and - as long as it does not hurt anyone else - do it to the best of your abilities.
Life is short. Find your own Nicolas Cage and be happy.