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A lump of coal



Three lumps of coal


Nic Cage’s career did not collapse from “the unbearable weight of massive talent,” that’s revisionist bullshit. When Nicolas Coppola emerged in the 1980s no one believed he had “massive” talent. Talent, yes. Family pedigree. Yes. But as with Johnny Depp, nearly every focus on Cage was about talent paired with equal or greater eccentricity. No one believed he–or Depp– was truly the equivalent of Marlon Brando. Maybe on par with Montgomery Cliff–or Peter Lorre, but I never read nor remembered anyone comparing Cage to Brando. There was endless verbiage, paragraphs and pages devoted to Cage’s penchant for extreme Method Acting as well as his quirky spending and personality tics. Talent, yes, but not “massive” talent.

Nicolas Cage’s career collapsed because he spent like Michael Jackson away from movie sets and resorted to appearing in every lurid B-movie role imaginable to cover his opulent expenses, not mainstream Hollywood releases. “Nicolas Cage” became a caricature of ridiculous excess not an A list actor to build a major release around. His “weird” lifestyle made him unemployable by the studios though he was never flagged with any charges of abuse that I recall.

Judging from the trailer Massive Talent appears to embrace the meta-referential framework which has staked a place in the arts since at least the 1980s. Cage is playing a role but his character is named “Nicolas Cage,” and the material suggests it is based upon his life and reputation whether the “story” is true or not. 

Hopefully it will be as memorable as a “meta-referential” near masterwork, Adaptation, based upon non-fiction masterpiece by Susan Orlean called The Orchid Thief, coincidentally the last good Nicolas Cage role. 


Supposedly the first film by Pedro Almodovar to explicitly address the Franco political era in his work, according to the New York Times (hey, wait a minute, what about one of his masterpieces, Bad Education?). The official very brief trailer indicates nothing “political,” then again it clocks in at less than 1:30 and seems a “women’s picture” as with many of his later, “mature” films. Why there’s no indication of something else is beyond me, or maybe a very strategic marketing decision. 

The return of Penelope Cruz as his late-period Muse (Almodovar is 72 and this is his 41st film, give or take) is always a potent sign. (No one utilizes Cruz the way Almodovar does. Certainly not Hollywood, who has never gifted her with a role worthy of a gift beyond her supreme beauty, and I certainly include her Oscar-winning role in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona as evidence. She’s endlessly compared to Sophia Loren, and there’s something right about it. Just as there is the Sophia Loren of Hollywood and the more satisfying Sophia Loren of Italian cinema, Cruz achieves a luminescent aura in her native cinema, especially under the direction of Almodovar.)


Almodovar’s other film from 2021. His much ballyhooed English-language film slated for release in 2020, delayed by the pandemic and probably forgotten by a great majority of us looking forward to its release. It sure slipped my feeble mind. Aside from Almodovar’s trademark color scheme, the trailer is even more truncated than Parallel Mothers’s edit. I may or may not brush up on my Jean Cocteau before watching it. (I probably won’t, who am I kidding. I don’t own a copy and can barely remember if I read the play during my collegiate obsession with Cocteau.)

For those of us of a certain age it’s still a shock to see Tilda Swinton in a major role, even if we followed her career chronologically. Once upon a time there was no one remotely like Swinton and then there was Swinton, this flame-haired, gender-fucked gamine Ziggy Stardust who went on to become an international movie star and fashion icon. From the AIDS-era (via the cinema of Derek Jarman) to the Covid era, with all her mystery, talent and panache intact.



It’s hard to underestimate how profound an international impact Bishop Tutu had upon the Eighties and Nineties. Nelson Mandela was the political face of the movement to end apartheid, the long-suffering activist and statesman. Tutu was the moral as well as religious face. Both men were absolutely needed to do so and both had impact far beyond their nation. Both men steered a South Africa which could have easily veered into a brutal civil war into a peaceful though painful transition.

“Truth + Reconciliation” the movement was called. Tutu deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 198x and did not hesitate to lend his moral stature to movements he supported ideologically around the world. His country couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador. He was an international inspiration.


May he rest in peace.

EVE BABITZ, WRITER (1943-2021)

Writer, memoirist, “It Girl,” bard of 1960s Los Angeles. Stravinsky as godfather. Hollywood High. Jim Morrison and The Doors. Never Joan Didion, although Didion graciously tried to help her career. Maybe a West Coast Dorothy Parker. Greatest quote: “People with brains went to New York, and people with faces came West.”


Younger sister of prima dancer Maria Tallchief, who emerged from her formidable shadow and achieved her own international fame. They were stars not just because of their talents but due to their “exotic” background: Oklahoma, Native American daughters of the Osage Nation, their mother Scott-Irish, their father a full-blooded Osage and oil rich. That no one has (yet) made a biopic of their lives is yet another indictment of Hollywood, and maybe French cinema as well, since Marjorie Tallchief achieved her greatest prominence on their soil. At least she lived long enough for Oklahoma to celebrate her a few times, despite the state’s difficult reckoning with Native history.  


If you have to ask. I never owned one but my friends did. I had thought I was over video and arcade games and then I touched the NES…


Best known for his 15-year stint with The Roots, in which he made as much of an indelible visual presence as Questlove and his afropick. Keep on thumpin’ in the afterworld.

Happy New Year,

The Hermit of Mink Hollow

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