Season of the Witch (2010) | Review by Hannah Brooks-Motl
When Bad Lieutenant came out we read a review by a film critic much more august and learned than ourselves which alleged the true greatness of Nicholas Cage lay in the fact that he did so much un-great work; that is, this critic went on, unlike a George Clooney or Matt Damon—essentially brand names as reliable as Kleenex or soap, appearing in the same high-end product placements, movie after movie—Nicholas Cage’s unreliability across nearly every factor at work in an actor’s career makes him the truer genius. His overzealous fecundity allows him a busier scenes across which his truly great roles streak, like high-spirited, buck-naked co-eds through a Bowl game: truly and utterly memorable for an uncommonly wide swathe of audience. Alas, Season of the Witch is like one of the mute, identical football players watching through his helmet as a delighted, bare-assed Charlie/Donald Kaufmann whizzes by.
SOTW has some cool shit in it: the Crusades, evil incarnate, and bubonic plague, for example. But whereas someone like Ingmar Bergman knew to sort of explore that historical and metaphysical nexus, Dominic Sena can’t help but fling every turd of convention onto his wobbly cairn that is the latest to mark a clear but inexplicable path through Hollywood’s dump. So we get not just buboes, and monks, and devilish spirits, but a scene in which monks hideously disfigured by buboes are revivified by devilish spirits, and then proceed to scuttle up and down the dome of some monastery at the high speed Hollywood has decided all evil travels, wielding scimitars; Satan is this winged human bat-dactyl who immolates his victims by hugging them really tight; the actors around Nick Cage look like imitation Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel, but are not; the landscapes around Nick Cage look like they happen one blue screen down from The Warrior’s Way, and probably did; Nick Cage himself has the look of beneficence and calm he always bears in bad movies like this. It made us wonder, as we watched, about models of artistic production and fame, and how finding the one way one makes art—whether with the glacial deliberateness of Bishop or the unhinged over-productivity of Ashbery—and just doing that is really all art is all about?