The 2006 instant classic The Wicker Man starring Nicolas Cage has quite a few valuable lessons to teach us. Here’s a list of the things I took away from this thought-provoking cinematic masterpiece.
1) You don’t need good acting when the dialog is this amazing - Seriously, the dialog is stellar. It’s so goddamn good, they could have filmed the pages of the script and it would have been just as exciting. For example, in the very first scene, a waitress asks how a customer is doing. He answers, “Sorry, my mind was wandering” to which she deftly replies, “If I ate one of those burgers, I’d totally be in a trance, too.” Hilarious! A few moments later, Cage’s cop character pulls someone over and he asks, “You know why I stopped you?” The driver says, “Yeah.” And – scene! Amazing! Are we sure this movie wasn’t directed by Hitchcock?
2) It’s best to be as literal as possible - Cage gets a letter from Willow stating her daughter Rowan has been missing for 2 weeks. He talks to another cop, we have no idea who he is, but presumably he’s Cage’s boss or something. He explains the letter and says he is going to the island of Summersisle to investigate. The friend asks, “Who is she? An ex-girlfriend?” Cage answers, “No, we were engaged.” That’s right. Not an ex-girlfriend, an ex-fiance. How can we expect to live in a functional society unless we are being as literal as possible? I, for one, applaud Cage for being completely specific. If we don’t abide by the rules, then we are living in anarchy.
3) Drinking is good for you - Cage drinks mead almost immediately after stepping onto the island. What we didn’t see were all the deleted scenes where he got hammered on mead. In fact, Cage was probably drunk on mead the entire time he was filming The Wicker Man. How else could he have turned in such an inspired performance? Substances must have helped him along the way. And to be completely honest, drunk on mead is the only way to watch The Wicker Man.
4) If you’re a cop, you don’t have to use your authority - Cage encounters a group of women holding a bleeding burlap sack. He asks them to open it, they fake him out, and he walks away. Any other cop would have pulled out their gun and made those old bitches open the bag under threat of being shot. Not Cage. He doesn’t need to do that. Clues aren’t important to his investigation. He doesn’t need to flaunt his coply authority to feel like a big-shot. He’s not on a power trip like some cops.
5) Consistent characterization is not necessary - Early on, Leelee Sobieski’s character asks Cage if she can leave the island with him. Later in the movie, she tries to kill him. Obviously, Sobieski is in on the conspiracy and is trying to hinder Cage’s investigation. This contradicts her earlier desire to leave the island. Really, we don’t need to sweat the details. That dialog was there to help pad out the length of the movie. Otherwise, it would mostly just be the camera focusing on Cage’s forehead glare with little else going on. And if I may say, Sobieski looks fucking exactly like Helen Hunt. If they ever make a movie about Helen Hunt, she is totally gonna play the lead role.
6) Men are second-class citizens - Cage enters a school and immediately hears the following exchange: Teacher, “What does man represent in his purest form?” Students, “Phallic symbol, phallic symbol.” This proves what I’ve suspected for years. Women only talk to me because they want my phallus. Men on this island exist solely to have sex. It sounds like a goddamn paradise. Could someone send me the address? This is solidified later on when Sister Summersisle says, “Men are a very important part of our colony. Breeding, you know.” Cage retorts, “Breeding? Sounds more like inbreeding to me.” Oh snap! To be fair, Cage was right. All the men on the island looked pretty Mongoloid to me.
7) Career trajectories often go in opposite directions - Sister Rose, played by Molly Parker, starred in HBO’s excellent TV series Deadwood, alongside Timothy Olyphant. One of them went on to star in the TV show Justified, the other went on to be in this movie. I guess not everyone can go on to fame, fortune, and iconic roles. Better luck next time, Mr. Olyphant.
8) This is why we have detectives - Cage plays a motorcycle cop. His investigation plays out exactly the way I would expect an investigation to go, if carried out by a motorcycle cop. He says he is going to question the entire town, but only bothers to talk to a handful of people. He opens a school desk and screams, “WHAT?!” when a crow flies out. He tells Rowan’s mom Willow to talk about the last time she saw Willow, “Can you give me the details? It’s important.” She replies, “She was sitting at the desk. She loves to swim.” He accepts this as perfectly reasonable testimony. Way to stay on topic, lady. Did someone with ADD write her dialog? I suppose the lesson here is that not every cop is cut out to run an investigation.
9) Persistence pays off - Cage wants to talk to the island’s only doctor. He knocks on the front door of her house twice. She opens the door in a huff, looking extremely annoyed, and says, “You’re persistent.” Yeah, he knocked twice. How fucking dare he? At least his tenacity paid off.
10) Great movie quotes translate into real life - The greatest film quotes are the ones you can use in your daily conversations. The Wicker Man has a classic that I intend to use every chance I get. It comes from Cage’s character (of course), “Perhaps it is time for you to stop bullshitting me, OK?”
11) Community building is important - The community of Summersisle is like an Aryan paradise. Everyone is blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I can’t think of a better kind of community to build than one that could rise up as the second coming of the Third Reich. The whole town gets in on the action, from putting a hat full of bees on Cage’s head, to lighting the giant Wicker Man on fire. Nothing says loving like a fun festival the entire community can partake in!
12) PTSD is awesome - Cage is struck down with PTSD as soon as the film begins. In fact, he buys a self-help tape on PTSD before he even experiences the horrifying events to come. Is he psychic or something? Incredible! Anyway, he watches in horror as a young mother and child are blown to pieces when their car explodes. He relives the event through flashbacks and nightmares throughout the movie. He sees semis driving across boats. He sees women exploding into swarms of bees. He sees dead bodies everywhere. He has a nightmare, wakes up, only to find himself in a second nightmare! It’s like Inception but way more real. This is accompanied by Cage’s signature frenzied screaming. I’m not sure why everyone is up in arms about trying to cure PTSD. If I had Cage’s brand of PTSD, I’d ride that wave to Hollywood stardom.
13) The art of romance is in how you kiss - Cage kisses Willow about an hour into the movie. Instead of smoothly and passionately kissing her, he leans in, stops, sniffs her, and then kisses her the same way you’d kiss your mom. She probably smelled like a dirty hippy. Hot!
14) It’s important to scream all your lines - In the final 40 minutes of the movie, Cage screams all his lines. For example, “HOW’D IT GET BURNED?! HOW’D IT GET BURNED?! HOW’D IT GET BURNED?! HOW’D IT GET BURNED?!“ Genius! He later pulls a gun on a lady and says, “Step away from the bike!” During his torture scene he screams out the film’s signature line, “Oh no, not the bees!” And just before he dies he screams, “You bitches! You bitches!” Screaming your lines tells the audience that you mean serious fucking business. How else are you supposed to convey that? This is some awesome acting at its best. Does Cage give out lessons for his Nouveau Shamanic acting style? He should.
15) Costumes are fun - Cage goes fucking crazy and punches a bitch to steal her bear costume. To be fair, it was a really nice costume, it looked professionally made. Not like one of those shitty costumes you find at the Halloween store one night before October 31st. He was going to be the hit of the party with that thing. Sobieski shows up and tries to steal the bear costume, but Cage kicks her into a wall. Serves her right. She should get her own costume. Later, Cage punches out another bitch while wearing his bear costume. Can you blame him? That thing really had his blood pumping with full-on burly manliness.
16) Women shouldn’t be in charge of planning - The entire plot of The Wicker Man is based around the concept of an elaborate plan to get Cage to the island so he can be sacrificed. They allowed two of their own population to die in order to bring one sacrifice to the island. Mathematically speaking, that strategy is going to stop working at some point. The women also assume that Cage, a cop, isn’t going to arrest or shoot anyone. That could put a damper on their festival. They nearly drown Cage in a flooded tomb, and if he had died, then the whole sacrifice would have been fucked. They also murder the harbor delivery pilot (presumably killing one every year) so the sacrificial victim can’t escape. Eventually, I’d think someone on the mainland would get suspicious, what with all these people flying to the island and never returning. Lastly, Sister Summersisle tells Cage, “You have been chosen to die a martyr’s death.” Unfortunately, you can’t be a martyr if you don’t believe in the thing you are dying for. You see, this is a perfect example of what happens when you put women in charge. Everything goes to shit, and ends up in a giant bonfire with people in bear costumes punching each other. Let this be an example to us all to never vote for a female president. If they ever try, just show them The Wicker Man.
17) Great movies don’t win awards - The last thing I learned from The Wicker Man is that great movies don’t win Academy Awards. Instead of The Wicker Man winning every award possible, as it should have, the 2006 awards went to shit like Crash and Brokeback Mountain, and best actor awards went to hacks like Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney. Oh well. At least we all know the real winner lives on in our hearts.
Verdict: Awesomely Shitty