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May 18, 2022
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent: Best Nicolas Cage Movie References
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent is a meta-analysis and satire of all things Nicolas Cage. What were the movie's best references to his career?

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent features a fictionalized version of Nicolas Cage as he reflects on his life and career while undergoing a secret CIA mission in the meta-action-comedy. When he meets a mysterious billionaire super-fan, Javi Guttierez (played by Pedro Pascal), the movie takes the audience on a wild ride through his mission in Majorca, along with the filmography of the legendary actor and Academy Award winner.

The acclaimed film has various references to Nicolas Cage’s most famous films. These references will be appreciated by die-hard cage fanatics and casual movie fans, due to their humorous use throughout the movie. Through its mix of comedy, action, and suspense, the film has been well-received by moviegoers of all different tastes.

The Croods: A New Age (2020)

Perhaps more known to younger movie fans, the 2020 sequel to the animated film The Croods is one of Cage’s more recent films.

In the movie, CIA agent Vivian (played by Tiffany Haddish) spots Cage and tells him that she and her nephew loved him in the movie. Her fellow CIA agent Martin (played by Ike Barinholtz), however, scoffs at the mention of the film and lists the names of movies that came out at this peak of Cage’s career in the 1990s.

Raising Arizona (1987)

Among Javi’s prized Nicolas Cage collection is a pack of Huggies diapers from the 1987 Coen brothers movie Raising Arizona. The role was one of Cage’s earliest leading roles, and the Coen brothers’ comedy is now considered by fans to be one of Nicolas Cage’s best movies.

The Huggies prop is an instantly recognizable reference due to the climactic scene where Cage’s character, a former convict, is chased by police after stealing the diapers for his new, also stolen, son. Raising Arizona’s unique brand of Looney Tunes-style comedy feels similar to Massive Talent’s own cartoonish style.

National Treasure (2004)

The National Treasure movies are two of Nicolas Cage’s more recent big studio movies. The original 2004 action film was a hit at the box office due to its epic storytelling, paired with Cage’s leading performance. The film also became a meme for several years afterward.

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One particular scene that helped solidify its meme status was Cage’s deadpan delivery of the rather silly line, “I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence”. Eagle-eyed Nicolas Cage fanatics and those who remember the meme will spy the very same Declaration of Independence prop on display in superman Javi’s home.

Mandy (2018)

The 2018 psychedelic horror movie Mandy is beloved by hardcore Nicolas Cage fans, renowned for Cage’s enjoyably erratic performance. Mandy is mentioned by Javi when he shows Cage his personal collection of movie merchandise. Cage is surprised to see appreciation for the indie flick, to which Javi replies that Mandy is “a masterpiece”.

The film is one of Cage’s lesser-known features in recent years. Still, it is regarded by those who have seen the film as one of Nicolas Cage’s best movies. Cage has been defensive of his recent work in more independent features, arguing that “some of the best work in my life” is in these often unappreciated films.

The Wicker Man (2006)

At the end of the film, Cage considers what statement belt he should wear to the premiere of his new movie. This is a reference to not only Cage’s signature wacky fashion sense, but one of his wackiest film roles as well, The Wicker Man. He considers a bee belt, while mentioning one of his best movie quotes – “not the bees!”.

In the film, Cage says this in a bizarre scene where he is forced to wear a mesh mask while bees are poured inside. This has been a popular meme for many years and is frequently cited as one of Cage’s signature chaotic movie scenes. Unbearable Weight‘s nod to the meme highlights its status as a self-aware look on the actor’s life that adds to its comedic nature.

Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

Much of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent centers around the fictional Nicolas Cage reflecting on his life and career. Struggling to find his place in modern Hollywood, the character considers leaving movies behind and quitting acting for good. In one scene, Cage sits in bed during a moment of existential crisis, watching the 1989 cult film Vampire’s Kiss.

Vampire’s Kiss is renowned for Nicolas Cage’s chaotic screen presence throughout the movie. Many consider the performance to be Cage at his most unhinged, as his desk-leaping and shrieking character is a prime example of movie scenery-chewing. It makes sense that the fictionalized version of Cage would watch Vampire’s Kiss, as a reminder to himself of the strength of his talent and his one-of-a-kind acting style.

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Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Although the 1995 drama Leaving Las Vegas may not be as widely known as Vampire’s Kiss or The Wicker Man, in some ways it is Nicolas Cage’s most acclaimed role. The leading role, in which Cage plays an alcoholic writer leaving for Vegas at rock bottom, won him an Academy Award for Best Actor.

In this movie, Cage dives into a pool while drinking a beer at the height of his despair, which is a replica of a scene in Leaving Las Vegas. This reference makes a great parallel to the peak of Cage’s career as the toast of Hollywood and the fictional Cage’s rock bottom similar to the dramatic role he once played. Rather than his love interest in the film swimming next to him, Javi swims down to meet him, foreshadowing their soon-to-be life-changing relationship.

Con Air (1997)

In the opening scene of Massive Talent, a couple watches the hit 1997 film Con Air before the woman is kidnapped. The reference of this film is an interesting choice to frame the legacy and icon status of Nicolas Cage. The action blockbuster came out at the peak of Cage’s career – when he was a recent Oscar winner and was a beloved leading man.

The film, in which Cage plays a former convict attempting to stop an airplane hijacking by feared criminals, mirrors the plot of Massive Talent and Cage’s mission to stop a cartel. While Cage goes on his own personal journey, it makes sense that his Con Air era would be the former glory days that he would try to channel.

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Wild at Heart (1990)

In the film, Nicolas Cage has a conversation with his younger self, who tries to give him a pep talk when he considers quitting show business. This younger Cage is much more confident, loud and impulsive, forcing the current Nicolas Cage to make out with him in a hilarious scene.

The CGI, de-aged Cage is taken from a real episode of the talk show Wogan in 1992, where a young Cage backflips into the studio and throws cards at the audience, before pulling out some karate moves. This was an infamous moment while promoting the film Wild at Heart, in which Cage plays an outlaw. It makes sense that a young, cocky Cage at the height of his career would be what a downbeat, older Cage would turn to as he looks to give himself advice.

Face/Off (1997)

The Face/Off prop Javi possesses in his Nicolas Cage shrine is arguably the most important in his collection. A pair of golden guns, held by a waxwork model of Cage’s Face/Off character, is in the center of Javi’s collection. The 1997 movie is well known for its charmingly ridiculous plot, where Cage and his nemesis, played by John Travolta, surgically swap faces. Cage later steals the golden guns, and the pair point guns at one another during a confrontation, before professing their love for one another.

The golden guns act as useful symbolism, as Nicolas Cage and Javi use the guns to defeat the cartel holding the hostages and save the day. In doing so, both Javi and Nicolas Cage deepen their friendship and their creative relationship while redeeming themselves. In a way, the pair have their own Face/Off style swap, where two former enemies set up against one another come to understand one another. The use of the prop from one of Cage’s best movies at the peak of his career works as a powerful metaphor for Cage weaponizing his own talents.

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