QUICK CUTS: NICHOLAS CAGE OR LIAM NEESON?
Featuring a Panel of Cinema Knife Fighters
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Today on QUICK CUTS we ask our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters, “If you had to choose between Nicholas Cage or Liam Neeson, which one would you rather see in a movie?”
We pose this question because both these guys have carved out niches for themselves of late, starring in a string of successful action movies. And because they both make a ton of movies, they each have had their share of misfires.
CHALLENGER # 1 – NICOLAS CAGE
So, Cage or Neeson? Does anyone have an opinion on this?
GARRETT COOK: Hell yes, I have an opinion on this!
L.L. SOARES: I should hope so! You’re on the flippin panel!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: We might as well start this one off with a bang.
L.L. SOARES: So, what’s your opinion?
GARRETT COOK: With the exception of his roles in DRIVE ANGRY (2011) and KICK-ASS (2010) Nicholas Cage makes me want to bite him until he dies every time he plagues my screen with this vomity acting, slow talking, and stupid, stupid face.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Wow, I guess you do have an opinion! Is “vomity” even a word?
GARRETT COOK: You know what I mean.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I certainly do. And I can’t say I disagree with you.
L.L. SOARES: Well, I disagree, but I’ll wait a bit before I prove you wrong.
MARK OSNPAUGH: Ouch!
GARRETT COOK: Liam Neeson is a street-smart man-god, who kills white slavers and was the best character in GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002). I forgive him for his involvement in STAR WARS EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999).
Neeson over Cage.
L.L. SOARES: Actually, Daniel-Day Lewis was the best thing in GANGS OF NEW YORK. In fact, I thought he was the only thing memorable about that movie.
MARK ONSPAUGH: My turn.
While I love the goofball eccentricity Cage brings to his roles, I find myself thanking God every day he was not Superman…
(The panel rises in unison and cheers, except for L.L. SOARES, who boos)
L.L. SOARES: Cage would have made an excellent Superman!
MARK ONSPAUGH: I’ll pretend you didn’t say that. Also, if the there was a chance to see either one in a kick-ass movie, then I would go with Neeson—his voice is awesome (witness the voice-overs for Star Wars: The Old Republic commercials) and he brings a certain gravitas to his serious roles… Was he not a major bad-ass in TAKEN (2008)? And let’s not forget he was DARKMAN (1990), Gawain in EXCALIBUR (1981), Kegan in KRULL (1983), ROB ROY (1995), Zeus in CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010)… AND freaking Ras Al-Ghul in the Nolan Batman trilogy…
MICHAEL ARRUDA: While I liked him as DARKMAN, I can’t say I was ever too excited by those other roles.
MARK ONSPAUGH: Plus, he’s proved he can have fun in popcorn fare like THE A-TEAM (2010). I don’t know if it’s his training or his tragedy (probably both), but I “buy” Neeson much more than Cage… Did I mention he’s Aslan in NARNIA?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Nope, and I wish you hadn’t!
MARK ONSPAUGH: Now, the real question—how about the two together as in-laws?
L.L. SOARES: Well, for the record, I have to admit, I love them both.
MARK ONSPAUGH: Hmm, maybe we should be considering Cage, Neeson, and Soares as in-laws?
L.L. SOARES: Huh? Wait, how many in-laws can a person have?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: All three of you could be brothers-in-law.
L.L. SOARES: Too confusing. Let me just make my points.
When Cage brings his over-the-top lunacy to a movie, it can turn a mediocre film into a campy treat. But there was a time when he was a serious actor. Back when he won the Oscar for LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995), and had roles in WILD AT HEART (1990) and KISS OF DEATH (1995).
But by the time he started appearing in action fare like THE ROCK (1996) and CON-AIR (1997), he had already become a parody of himself. Then something weird happened. He took that parody version of himself and pushed it all the way through to the other side.
Now in stuff like BAD LIETUENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS (2009), and DRIVE ANGRY (2011), he’s turned his eccentricities into an art form.
GARRETT COOK: Yeah, bad art!
L.L. SOARES: Even though I look forward to most movies Cage is in, I won’t see everything. I still haven’t seen his NATIONAL TREASURE movies, nor do I plan to.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Smart move. You’re not missing much.
L.L. SOARES: I can also live without seeing FAMILY MAN (2000) and THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (2010). I just have no desire to see Cage in any kind of “family” film.
Neeson is the more serious of the two, but even he has had his low points. As Garrett mentioned, he was Qui-Gon Jinn in STAR WARS EPISODE 1 – THE PHANTOM MENACE, a character who just did nothing for me. And he was a ho-hum Zeus in the awful CLASH OF THE TITANS remake. But even in bad movies and less than stellar roles, he seems to rise above the crap and maintain his dignity. There is an air of authority and gravitas that Neeson brings to every role, so he’s always watchable, at least. His more recent action fare with TAKEN, UNKNOWN (2011) and THE GREY (2012) have been a lot more entertaining than they have any right to be, and I can’t wait to see more of this “new” Liam Neeson.
But at this point, I look forward to any new movie either of them puts out. Even if they’re in bad movies, they’re still more entertaining than 90% of the rest of the actors out there.
COLLEEN WANGLUND: I’ve liked Nic Cage in a handful of movies—.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Nic Cage?
MARK ONSPAUGH: I’m adding Colleen to the in-law list with Cage, Neeson, and Soares.
L.L. SOARES: Huh?
MICHAEL ARRUDA (laughing): Yeah, she’s the sister in-law.
COLLEEN WANGLUND: As I was saying, I’ve liked Nic Cage in a handful of movies, like LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995), WILD AT HEART (1990), RAISING ARIZONA (1987), and MOONSTRUCK (1987)—but for the most part I think Cage “phones it in”.
L.L. SOARES: I don’t think so. I think he hams it up in a fun way, and sometimes people miss that in his performances.
COLLEEN WANGLUND: Well, in my opinion, Liam Neeson is just a better actor, regardless of the movie role.
L.L. SOARES: I agree Neeson is the better actor, but Cage won an Oscar! That said, they’re both doing their best work in movies that many people might consider beneath them. Well, beneath Neeson at least…
GARRETT COOK: We’re talking too much about Cage. Someone hand me a barf bag!
COLLEEN WANGLUND: Well, that’s my answer.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Liam Neeson or Nicholas Cage?
L.L. SOARES: Yeah, that’s the question, you dolt. Are you going to answer it or repeat it again?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: For you, I might just repeat it, but since we have an entire panel here tonight, I’ll let it go. But now it’s my turn.
Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t a fan of either one of these actors.
Way back when, I did like Neeson in his early roles, in films like SUSPECT (1987) and THE MISSION (1986), and of course, he was outstanding in SCHINDLER’S LIST (1992). But surprisingly he failed to impress me in LES MISERABLE (1998), and then came a string of roles that just didn’t wow me, starting with STAR WARS EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE and including such movies as BATMAN BEGINS (2005), the NARNIA movies, and CLASH OF THE TITANS. Of course, I didn’t see everything Neeson made during these years, but what I was seeing wasn’t doing much for me. I mean, he was fine in these films, but he wasn’t outstanding.
However, I’ve really enjoyed Neeson lately in films like CHLOE (2009), UNKNOWN and THE GREY. He’s been excellent in these movies.
L.L. SOARES: I liked CHLOE a lot, too.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Cage always seems to grate on my nerves.
GARRETT COOK: Would you like a barf bag?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: No thanks. He never made me want to throw up, but he does get under my skin.
Like with Neeson, I did enjoy some of his early movies, like RAISING ARIZONA (1987) and MOONSTRUCK (1987)
L.L. SOARES: MOONSTRUCK? That’s what you consider to be a good Nicolas Cage movie? Gimme LEAVING LAS VEGAS and WILD AT HEART over those any day.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I think he’s pretty darn good in MOONSTRUCK, but as his career went on he appeared in movies I either didn’t like or wasn’t interested in seeing. His appearance in THE ROCK (1996) began a stretch of action movies I wasn’t crazy about.
Also like Neeson, I’ve enjoyed some recent performances by Cage, in such movies as SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011) and DRIVE ANGRY 3D (2011). However, the big difference between the two is Neeson’s recent roles have left me wanting to see whatever he’s doing next. I can’t say the same for Cage.
So, Liam Neeson or Nicholas Cage?
L.L. SOARES: Are you repeating the question again?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: That’s my gift to you.
Anyway, I’m going with Neeson.
NICK CATO: Here’s my two cents.
L.L. SOARES: Hey, Nick! You’re here!
NICK CATO: Yep, I’m here.
L.L. SOARES: You’ve been so quiet, I hadn’t noticed you!
DANIEL KEOHANE: I’m here too. Waiting patiently, while you guys continue to dominate the conversation.
L.L. SOARES: Quit whining! We’ll get to you!
DANIEL KEOHANE: I’d like to think you’re saving the best for last.
L.L. SOARES: You can think that all you want, but it’s not true! (laughs).
MARK ONSPAUGH: I could add you to the “in-laws” list if that would make you feel any better.
GARRETT COOK: How about a barf bag?
DANIEL KEOHANE: No, no. I’m good. (Feigns a pouty face.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: How about your two cents, Nick?
NICK CATO: I’ve been a big Nicolas Cage fan since seeing him in RAISING ARIZONA (1987).
While there’s no denying Liam Neeson is a great (and better) actor —I especially liked him in KINSEY (2004) —a lot of roles he chooses simply don’t interest me. Cage is always over the top, comical, and while a lot of people don’t care for it, I love his constant neo-Elvis persona (his role as Sailor Ripley in David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART (1990) was priceless). Regardless of who is directing him (be it Lynch, Werner Herzog, or the Coen Brothers), Cage always makes these unique roles his own.
L.L. SOARES: I think a lot of people don’t get Nicholas Cage.
GARRETT COOK: I get him. He just makes me sick!
DANIEL KEOHANE: Is it finally my turn?
L.L. SOARES: Yes, it’s finally your turn!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Go for it.
DANIEL KEOHANE: The way they each approach their roles is completely different. Cage takes on more “Everyman” characters caught in larger-than-life situations. Neeson, though also in predicament-type movies, seems more bent on suspense films vs. Cage’s science fiction/fantasy/action roles.
And Neeson carries a more—if this makes any sense—literary air about himself.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Yeah, I know what you mean. There’s an intellectual presence in his roles. He almost carries himself like he’s a college professor
L.L. SOARES: Yeah, a college professor who kicks some serious ass!
DANIEL KEOHANE: Cage does more of a comic book kind of thing.
Or here’s an even worse metaphor: Neeson is multi-grain to Cage’s Wonder Bread. I like them both, depending on my appetite.
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I don’t see Cage as Wonder Bread. He’s more like Beer Bread.
L.L. SOARES: What the hell is beer bread?
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Bread made with beer. It’s good. But if you eat too much of it, you won’t be feeling too good. Kinda like watching Nicholas Cage.
Well, thanks everyone for taking part in tonight’s QUICK CUTS column. For what it’s worth, the voting tonight went LIAM NEESON – 6, NICHOLAS CAGE – 3, so this panel clearly favored Neeson.
On behalf of Garrett Cook, Mark Onspaugh, Colleen Wanglund, Nick Cato, Dan Keohane, L.L. Soares and myself, Michael Arruda, thank you all for joining us, and we’ll see you next time!