This week the statistical news site FiveThirtyEight released the most ambitious actor career analysis in its “Hollywood Taxonomy” series, examining the five types of Nicolas Cage Movies. Up to now, the site broke each actor’s work down to three or four types. But Nicolas Cage’s work is so famously all over the place that CollegeHumor made a sketch about his frustrated agent.
His performances vary so widely that Community spent a whole Abed B-plot on it, climaxing with the performance below. So FiveThirtyEight said fuck everything, we’re doing five types.
The Hollywood Taxonomy formula works like this: Writer Walt Hickey graphs out an actor’s movies by box office income and critical rating. Then he draws blobs around different clumps of data points, and justifies them with qualitative analysis, discussing the actor’s career, often using the actor’s own terms from interviews.
The best installments in the series cover actors with a particularly eclectic body of work, or a career arc with clear “eras”: Adam Sandler, Dwayne Johnson, Scarlett Johansson. So Nicolas Cage, star of both Wicker Man and Adaptation, is a high point. For instance, Hickey explores the theory that Cage made so many bad direct-to-video films because he lost a lot of money in the real estate crash.
The series is a good place to learn about an actor’s “canon,” though so far the series only covers household names. There’s also a special instalment claiming that John Goodman does his best work as a supporting actor, a combo instalment on Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, and a premature autopsy of M. Night Shyamalan’s career, written before The Visit got a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Hmm – apparently FiveThirtyEight can’t always predict a winner.
The Five Types of Nicolas Cage Movies [FiveThirtyEight]