(Nic Cage Match is this Saturday at SIFF Cinema from 11 am until late. Tickets for the whole six-film series are $35. If you can't make the whole series, tickets for the individual films in the series will be on sale at the door on the day of the show.)
This is America. We don't do small. And we don't do natural very well, either. The nature that we set aside for the sole purpose of appreciation is there because it's too huge to ignore: mountains, grand canyons, redwood forests. Hell, even our long tradition of naturalism is huge, bursting with contradictory multitudes. "Realism" doesn't exist in America because reality bores the shit out of us.
But for too long now, our movie stars, the faces we look at when we want to imagine ourselves at our biggest and most godlike, have been obsessed with realism. Despite Brando's tremendous appetites, he was obsessed with tiny movements, with tremorous flinches of the eye, little puffs of disappointed breath, a perfectly timed swallow. Strasberg school movie-star naturalism has practically become self-parody; actors are squinting and tensing their jaws in order to convince us that the tennis ball on a stick that they're staring at is actually, say, a spaceship, or a chimpanzee rebellion, or a flatulent dwarf sidekick. Our movie stars try too goddamned hard to sell reality to us, when reality is something with which we've never been concerned*. American pictures, as Norma Desmond slurred in Sunset Boulevard, got small.
This is why Nicolas Kim Coppola is a prophet. Born into the most prestigious American film family, he tossed out his surname and named himself after Luke Cage, an outsider African American superhero published by Marvel Comics. (Cage seems to love the inky four-color world of superheroes more than his own bloodline; he named his son Kal-El, after Superman's Kryptonian birth name.)
Like all outsiders, Cage has been subject to more than his share of ridicule...