Gilded Cage

'Windtalker' thesp honored with Cinematheque Award

With Crispin Glover, Johnny Ramone and Lisa Marie Presley seated at the head table and as eccentric a personality as Nicolas Cage as honoree, the aud at Sunday’s American Cinematheque Award dinner at the BevHilton had every reason to believe emcee Samuel L. Jackson when he said: “What can you expect from this evening? The unexpected.”

However, the momentum killing, stop-and-go demands of TV filming, plus a word-for-word reliance on scripted material delivered via prompter (“It’s like being at a Streisand concert,” said one wag) left little room for the unexpected to flourish.

If anything in the live program reflected Cage’s offbeat personality, it came when Tom Waits kicked off the show with his raspy voiced crooning of the tribute song he’d written for the occasion (“I ain’t no extra, I’m a leading man,” was one line).

Perf included gestures and contortions that combined elements of Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy with Blind Lemon Jefferson singing “Black Snake Moan.”

Cage’s work spoke for itself in film clips that were packaged with a slickness worthy of any movie trailer. If there was a surprise in the retro glance, it was in how many relatively forgotten films (“Red Rock West,” “Trapped in Paradise”) the Oscar winner has done.

Live appearances came from Cinematheque co-chairs Peter Dekom and Mike Medavoy (who later mentioned the event netted over $500,000); Jerry Bruckheimer and Gerry Harrington who were honorary chairs along with Jonathan Dolgen.

Talent who intro’d clips were Dennis Franz, Jon Lovitz, Elisabeth Shue, Christian Slater, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jay Leno and award presenter Jim Carrey.

Highlights of the video tribs came from Cage’s uncle Francis Ford Coppola, Johnny Depp, Spike Jonze (who wore a fat suit and green pork pie hat); and John Travolta, who mimicked Cage’s mannerisms with a disarming ease.

Among those applauding the award presentation were Michael Bay, Alan Horn, Nigel Sinclair, Alex Yemenidjian, Chris McGurk, Sandy Climan, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jeff Berg, Kevin McCormick, John Goldwyn and Colleen Camp, John Woo and Bernie Brillstein.

The event will air on TNT in 2002.

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