National Treasure: WHBPAC Celebrates Nicolas Cage with 3-Day Film Festival

Nicolas Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Nicolas Cage as a version of himself in “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”
Photo Credit: Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is doing something a bit out of the ordinary, perhaps even extraordinary, given the venue’s somewhat more highbrow, artsy reputation, and it’s exactly what we need. Scheduled over three days from April 22–24, Caged In: A Nicolas Cage Film Festival will screen eight selections from the actor’s vast filmography and supplement them with a variety of special panels and events digging deep into Cage’s four-decade oeuvre.

As the festival’s creators (WHBPAC Communications Manager Heather Draskin and Box Office Director Allison Frost) point out, Cage’s repertoire is as varied as one can get, and his acting chops have long been the subject of heated debate. The man has earned accolades for his talents, and even a Best Actor Oscar for 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, but he’s equally, if not more, famous for over-the-top performances in a long list of forgettable, B-grade films. He’s a Hollywood legend with a host of iconic roles, just as he’s an internet joke with too many memes to count. In short, Nicolas Cage is polarizing and perfect for the kind of celebration WHBPAC has put together.

Attendees of the Caged In festival will enjoy screenings of Cage classics including Moonstruck (1987), Face/Off (1997), Adaptation (2002), National Treasure (2004) and National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007), G-Force (a 2009 animated film) and Pig (2021). But the most interesting part is the list of events, such as a Cornerstone Panel with notable film experts and Nicolas Cage enthusiasts discussing his films and career; the Village Treasure: Store of Secrets treasure hunt throughout the village of Westhampton Beach; Wild at Heart Ultimate Nicolas Cage Acting Experience with teaching artist Kasia Klimiuk; a You Don’t Say: Memes in the Age of Cage talk with internet and social media influencers discussing the impact of memes on culture; and, of course, a costume contest (so bring your snakeskin jacket — a symbol of your individuality and your belief in personal freedom).

“We traditionally have a film program that does first-run arthouse, independent and foreign films, so for us to do a festival highlighting somebody who’s a little bit more mainstream and a little less indie, definitely was a bit of a switch,” Frost explains. “But I think coming out of the pandemic, one of the conversations that we’ve been having is how do we reach a new audience? How do we reach people who maybe haven’t come here in years? How do we reinvigorate the film program?” Frost, who also curates WHBPAC’s Rose and Don Ciampa World Cinema Series, points out that a festival like Caged In brings added value to audiences. “You get to the panels, you get to talk to maybe a writer or director, you get to talk to people who have a deeper understanding of film in general,” she says. “It’s a whole experience.”

Allison Frost and Heather Draskin of WHBPAC
Allison Frost and Heather Draskin of WHBPACCourtesy WHBPAC

With this idea in mind, Frost and Draskin began to brainstorm ideas for such an experience. “On a whim, we began to formulate the idea of a film festival. And in deciding who would be the perfect honoree, we came upon Nicolas Cage because he’s a cult actor with such an enigmatic presence, eclectic filmography, and frankly, he’s pretty damn interesting,” Draskin recalls. “And then when you think of his influence on pop culture and social media, it felt like the perfect fit. We’re moving in new directions with things like our film program, where we can flex our creative muscles in a medium that allows for a lot of cinematic freedom,” she continues, explaining that Cage is “an actor with a deep reservoir of talent that transcends contemporary acting styles.”

Frost and Draskin had already, half-jokingly at first, played with the idea of a Nicolas Cage festival when they caught wind of the actor’s latest film, The Unbearable Weight of Talent, premiering at South by Southwest. “We saw that and said, ‘It’s kind of a sign from the universe, right?’” Frost says, describing the new film as “a very meta movie with Nic Cage playing a version of himself who has to deal with all his previous films and characters.”

Nicolas Cage as Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
Nicolas Cage as Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.Photo Credit: Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate

The timing couldn’t be better. The Unbearable Weight of Talent hits theaters on Friday, April 22, the day the festival begins, and it will surely have fans reinvigorated and excited for all things Nicolas Cage. And so far, the movie has received great reviews, earning a 9.1 on IMDB (as of press time) and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Soon everyone will be talking about Cage.

Both 38 years old, Draskin and Frost admit to being longtime fans of Cage and lovers of movies in general, and they say this festival is geared toward people like them — but for fans of all ages. “Twenty-year-olds have a different Nic Cage than we do. They know him more for National Treasure and the newer stuff,” Draskin says. And that’s the beauty of the actor and this celebration, which they envision having a Comic Con-like vibe, complete with panels and cosplay.

“His persona, his style, his everything, it really lends itself to honoring someone like that,” Frost points out. “You talk to 100 different people and you’re going to get 100 different answers about what their favorite Nic Cage movie is.”

Nicolas Cage as Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
Nicolas Cage as Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Photo Credit: Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate

“He’s got an eclectic filmography, there’s just something for everyone,” Draskin adds. “He really just embraces it. I just love that he embraces all these different roles, he really owns it. He doesn’t phone it in. He really is a pure, authentic actor.”

Cage is currently in production so he declined an invitation to the festival, but the organizers are holding onto hope. “You never know, he’s done wackier things,” Frost says.

Find more info, including tickets and showtimes, at whbpac.org.

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