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Why haven’t you watched or why aren’t you watching Nicolas Cage in Joe? Stop what you’re doing and go watch this movie. It is playing in some theaters but available everywhere on demand. Go find it. I’ll wait.

Let’s start with a little story. Once upon a time, my wife decided to bring one of her friends over and somehow the subject of Nicolas Cage popped up—as it would/should in any self-respecting household. This was the first time I ever met this person and she mistakenly decided to share her stupid opinion that Nicolas Cage was terrible. A bad actor who mostly did bad movies, as she put it.

I instantly hated her guts. I despised her very existence. I still do.

Needless to say, this was the first and only time I ever met this person. It’s a minor miracle that I didn’t kick this person out of my house or spit in her face. Obviously, she didn’t possess a brain.

Sure, Nicolas Cage has had his troubles with the IRS and been forced to do some shitty movies. No one can defend The Wicker Man (NOT THE BEES!!!). But you’re an idiot if you don’t think the good outweighs the bad. If nothing else, Nicolas Cage is always entertaining and he makes everything memorable.

The facial expressions Nicolas Cage makes in Joe should be emblazoned in your brain forever. There’s even a scene where Nicolas Cage (the aforementioned Joe) is drunkenly explaining to Tye Sheridan (who plays Gary) how to work on his cool face—stand like you own land, make your pain face, and then smile like you’ve got a lot on your mind but you know you’re gonna get through it. It’s pure fucking gold.

Sheridan

Especially because the expression on Tye Sheridan’s face looks like he’s crying through constipation.

Coming off a solid performance in Mud, Tye Sheridan is making a name for himself already in his young career. These two roles and the ensuing performances are eerily reminiscent of Brad Renfroe. Hopefully his future work allows room for a little more diversity because it’s abundantly clear that Sheridan has the troubled redneck role locked down. In this movie, Tye Sheridan is exceedingly enjoyable and easy to root for as Gary Jones—who is a 15-year old wise beyond his years charged with the responsibility of caring for and protecting his mom and sister from his degenerate, abusive alcoholic father.

Whether or not you like Joe as much I do will probably hinge on your opinion of Gary’s father, Wade a.k.a G-Daawg. This role is pivotal for the movie and it’s played by Gary Poulter who was a homeless man pulled off the street and offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Director David Gordon Green deserves immense credit for having the balls to think outside the box by seeking out locals to employ. As a result of this brilliant decision, Joe exudes an overwhelming sense of realism because you feel Poulter really is this character and he might be that awful. Gary Poulter didn’t have the classic training to be an actor, but he didn’t need it for this movie. This wasn’t so much of an acting job as it was a cathartic exercise.

Wade was Gary Poulter in all his glory. For much of this movie, Wade is menacing and increasingly violent when anything gets in the way between him and the bottle. Slapping his son is commonplace and it is clear that he’s done some terrible things to both his daughter and wife. Yet there’s still a human being deep down at the core of this character. While drunk off his ass (well, he’s literally on his ass and can’t stand up), Wade is cheerful as he displays his pop ‘n lock skills. That wasn’t in the script. That was just Gary Poulter.

As a homeless man who had truly lived this life, Gary Poulter brought something to the table that no one could have hoped to recreate. It was fucking heartbreaking. I think I identified with Gary Poulter more than the average person because I’ve grown up in the nonprofit realm helping this type of person. I’ve seen people like Gary Poulter before. They’re no different than you or me. We all have our demons in some form or another. But it’s how we deal with those issues that set us apart. For some, it’s just easier to drink away the pain or shoot junk into your veins. The bottle was the drug of choice for Gary and Wade.

With one look, you could tell that Gary Poulter had been chewed up and spit out by the machine of life.

Gary Poulter

But somehow, he managed to pull it together for the duration of filming. By all accounts, he was a delightful presence and always professional when on set. I couldn’t have been more impressed by Poulter’s performance. Unfortunately, I knew how his story ended before I saw the movie. I’ve been anticipating the release of Joe for a while now after the success of Mud, which touches on some similar themes.

Only two months after the completion of filming and the start of new possibilities, Gary Poulter was found dead in Austin, Texas, after apparently drowning in just three feet of water. He was drunk and homeless again. Maybe he had another alcohol-induced seizure or perhaps he passed out in a drunken stupor. It’s a sad end to a sad life. But this ending is not unique to Poulter. Some who are homeless choose to keep that lifestyle because it’s what is familar. It’s easier to survive on your own than listen to or deal with other people. I encourage everyone to read Gary Poulter’s life story laid out in The Austin Chronicle. Despite any bad things he did, he deserves for you to know his name. Let Joe serve as an ode to Gary Poulter.

Joe

The dynamic established by this movie is one of a kind. The rise and fall of Gary Poulter shows why it’s so risky to cast a homeless man in a significant role, but it also shows how successful it can be when everything breaks right. Joe benefits from a rare restrained performance from Nicolas Cage, which allows both Tye Sheridan and Gary Poulter to shine in their respective roles before the fireworks begin.

For most of this movie, you are waiting for Joe to explode in all of his Cagey exuberance. As an ex-con who spent more than a year in the penitentiary, Joe is desperately attempting to keep is anger at bay while his rage continues to boil under the surface. He damn sure doesn’t take any shit from the local police. Joe probably won’t be the most memorable role of Cage’s career, but it shows that a great actor has still been struggling to stay alive despite movies like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years. Even if this type of Cage movie only comes around every five years, it’s worth the wait in my opinion. Joe is a great movie with some fine Cagey moments that everyone should enjoy.

If you don’t like Joe, go fuck yourself.

Cagey

5 out of 5 stars

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I may have been late to the game regarding The Spectacular Now, but I’m making up for it with unbridled enthusiasm. After watching Her, I immediately declared it both my favorite and the best movie of 2013.

But then along came The Spectacular Now.

Bolstered by its great writing, The Spectacular Now is a slow burn character study of Sutter Keely (played in phenomenal fashion by Miles Teller). Miles Teller hasn’t blown up as an actor just yet, but this movie is a prime example of why it’s just a matter of time. Thanks to Miles Teller’s performance, the character of Sutter comes to life as an extremely likable yet alcoholic high school senior.

We all know this person in some form or another. Maybe you even went to high school with someone who has a hint of Sutter—though they probably were more dickish than charming, which is an accomplishment here for Miles Teller since Sutter has several apparent character flaws. Sutter is fun-loving but already seemingly stuck in the addict’s cycle of drowning his emotions with the bottle.

The Spectacular Now opens with Sutter trying to write his personal statement for a college application while he’s casually sipping a beer. A Pabst Blue Ribbon, nonetheless. No one should casually sip that piss water PBR. Despite the blue ribbon, Pabst is meant to be chugged continuously at a shitty party so you can get drunk as fast as possible and forget about all the shitty people you’re getting drunk around.

But this serves as a nice hint as to where Sutter is already at with his alcoholism.

Miles

Lamenting on losing his girlfriend (who wants to be with someone that has a direction in life), we see Sutter attempting to maintain that “king of the world” high that a teenager feels when they think they’re invincible. He drinks and drives and passes out in a stranger’s yard. Remarkably, he hasn’t killed anyone.

Sutter is woken up from his lawn nap by Aimee Finecky (played by Shailene Woodley) early in the morning. They go to the same high school and have even been in the same class before, but of course Sutter doesn’t recognize her at all. Aimee isn’t coming home from a party. She’s not that kind of girl, and this movie makes sure we know that. Instead, she is up at the crack of dawn delivering newspapers for her mom’s route without receiving any real compensation. Responsibility is a bitch—and so is Aimee’s mom.

Since Sutter has no idea where the fuck his car is from that night’s drunken stupor, he hitches a ride helping Aimee deliver newspapers while keeping an eye out for his abandoned ride. Meanwhile, their friendship is building and a romance is budding. You think you know where this is going.

Director James Ponsoldt performs an impressive balancing act in this angst-ridden love story fueled by teenage alcoholism. Although the main character Sutter is drifting through his high school life, the direction of The Spectacular Now does not drift. This movie is not afraid to let scenes breathe and it is not concerned with beating you over the head with an onslaught of jokes or physical comedy.

This is not a typical romantic comedy. And that is a good thing.

Flask Clank

Despite some very slow moments, I was always interested and never bored. The direction that The Spectacular Now goes with the story is notexactly what I imagined, but it helps generate genuine characters (specifically Sutter) that deserve empathy. It also helps that Bob Odenkirk as Dan (Sutter’s boss) and Kyle Chandler as Tommy (Sutter’s dad) are perfect performances in supporting roles.

A minor stumbling block for me with this movie is Shailene Woodley. I don’t understand the love fest.

With the success of Divergent, Shailene Woodley is apparently on the cusp of breaking out and becoming a true movie star. My introduction to Shailene was as Amy on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which was an awful television show on ABC Family that my wife used to watch. Her acting was atrocious in every scene of that show (her first real gig), and her acting is only incrementally better in this movie.

Fortunately for The Spectacular Now, Shailene Woodley isn’t asked to do too much and the rest of the movie more than makes up for her mediocre performance. All of the individual pieces and the whole make this is an exceedingly enjoyable movie. Thanks in large part to Miles Teller’s impeccable performance, I didn’t want to let this movie or the character of Sutter leave my mind.

As long as I didn’t write this down, the movie stuck in my head.

I am fully onboard now with the career of Miles Teller. I even endured that tepid throwaway comedy with Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan, and it’s not a surprise that Teller stole the movie. I couldn’t even remember the name of that piece of shit, but it was stupidly named That Awkward Moment.

Hopefully, Teller gets even better with age because he can already toggle spot-on comedic timing with gut-wrenching emotional scenes. There are a few of those sprinkled through The Spectacular Now. As a textured romantic dramedy, The Spectacular Now leaped Her as my favorite and the best movie I saw in 2013. With a handful of viewings under my belt, I’m sure there will be more on the horizon.

I’ve embraced this movie with open arms and you should too.

Embrace That Shit

“The best thing about now, is that there’s another one tomorrow.” – Sutter

5 out of 5 stars

Obey

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