Well, friends, I did it again. I stayed out too late last night, mixed my liquors (I know, rookie mistake, but the heart wants what the heart wants and last night it wanted martinis, tequila, and yes, more gin), and generally made poor life choices—no face tattoos this time, though! Yet the world keeps spinning, just like the room is right now. It’s a couch day, for sure, and time for a monthly viewing of one of my favorite movies of all time: Con Air.
Con Air is a perfect movie about convicts taking over a prisoner transport plane, and Nic Cage talking in a ridiculous accent. He’s only there because the courts deemed his hands dangerous weapons—so of course he’s going to try to save the day. I’m not kidding. That’s literally what he says he’s going to do.
Now, much has been written about 1939 being the best year for Hollywood—it churned out classics like The Wizard of Oz, Beau Geste, Gone With the Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Women. You get the point, the list goes on and on. However, I genuinely believe that 1997 was the best year for modern movies. Titanic, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Gross Pointe Blank, Soul Food, Air Force One, Starship Troopers, Eve’s Bayou, LA Confidential, The Fifth Element, Love Jones, The Fully Monty, Face/Off, and yes my beloved Con Air were all released that year. Tell me that’s not an excellent slate. (Yes, Chads of the world, I understand that you hate Titanic because anything that teen girls love shrink your manhood. We will get into that one day, but if you bring that nonsense to the comments, you get what you get.)
Con Air came at a beautiful time in America—Nic Cage hadn’t gone, well, full Nic Cage yet and was in the midst of his best period that resulted in the holy trinity: Face/Off, The Rock, and yes, Con Air. Obviously Face/Off, while good, is still the weakest link in that chain of awesome. You start to get glimpses of what Cage is about to become in it, and while I love later-era buy-pirate-bones-and-sleep-on-graves Nic Cage, my favorite era is the liminal period between quirky indie-darling Cage, and full on batsh*t Cage. It was a time that didn’t last long, and yet it didn’t need to because what he left in its wake was Con Air. A perfect movie.
So let’s examine why Con Air is obviously better than Citizen Kane, a movie made by white dudes, about other white dudes, for white dudes and is really really boring. Yeah, I said it.
At face value, it should be obvious. Citizen Kane has exactly zero explosions of any kind that I can remember. Con Air is basically one big explosion. Enough said. This should honestly be sufficient to convince anyone, but since you’re here, I’m going to go into a little more explanation because I’d like to share with you the things that I love about Con Air.
It Takes Place on Bastille Day, For No Reason.
So the events of the entire movie take place on July 14th. That’s Bastille Day, the day of French independence. They make so many references to the fact it’s July 14th and yet they never mention it’s Bastille Day—it’s also the day Cameron Poe becomes free (because again, his fists are deemed deadly weapons) so it’s clear there’s a parallel of independence that’s never explored, and why should it be? His fists are deadly weapons! Now I know Americans don’t really care about Bastille Day, but it’s so deliciously bizarre that of all the days they could have picked to have this movie happen on, they chose July 14th. Why? It’s never explained, and I love them for that.
Put the Bunny Back in the Box
I have to be honest, it’s hard for me to finish this article, because I’m stopping to watch every clip I embed here, and it makes me want to give up and just go watch Con Air.
The Maltese Falcon, Julius’ suitcase, Rosebud, the Heart of the Ocean, Cameron Poe’s bunny.
That damn bunny spurs a lot of the action, and frankly as a MacGuffin is more compelling than a sled. You know what we’re talking about here.
Peak John Cusack
1997 was John Cusack’s best year, too—he had five movies come out, three good, one ok, and one had a young and hot Jude Law, so it’s worth watching if you can stomach Kevin Spacey. Surprisingly, as a 1997 John Cusack movie, Con Air comes in second to Grosse Pointe Blank, but that’s because it was the best John Cusack movie of the year—Con Air is solidly a Nic Cage movie. Anyway, I digress.
John Cusack has unfortunately also gone down the Cage path and basically only makes movies that Lorenzo Lamas turns down, now. In the mid ’90s though, he was at his best, and Con Air is a testament to that. Also, Con Air is where I learned the definition of loquacious and garrulous because I first saw this movie at 12, and not only did he use them in a scene, he then defined them. Thanks, John Cusack!
Steve Buscemi as a Weirdo, Lovable, Serial Killer
Look, I love the scenery chewing that John Malkovich and Ving Rhames do, especially because those guys were known as more serious actors at the time. They threw themselves into the role of the ringleaders who take over the plane, but ultimately you have to hand it to Steve Buscemi, because he somehow makes you root for a creepy serial killer to get a second shot at life.
He also delivers one of the best lines in the movie:
These are just a few of the many reasons why Con Air is not only better than Citizen Kane, but also basically one of the greatest movies of all time. So I hope you will join me in partaking of yet another viewing today (if you’re doing it the Hudson way, it will be followed by Commando, another classic, but that’s a story for another day), and talking about everything but Con Air in the comments.
Header Image Source: Touchstone Pictures