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Film

#86: Dark (2017)

My name is Ed and I watch films in which Nicolas Cage appears, write down numbers from them, and then play the UK National Lottery, which I will eventually win because of this.

When you decide you’re going to watch everything Nicolas Cage has ever been in to try and win the lottery, you have to set some parameters – for example, I have included TV stuff, but only when it’s substantial and he’s at least partly character (so I didn’t include his legendary appearance on Wogan, but did include the episode of Saturday Night Live he hosted). With films, I haven’t typically concerned myself with alternate cuts – I didn’t try to win the lottery by watching The Wicker Man AND the Director’s Cut of The Wicker Man. That would be insane.

But I’m making an exception for Dark, which is, debatably, the director’s cut of Dying Of The Light, a 2014 film which ended up being disowned by writer/director Paul Schrader (and almost everyone else involved) after the distributor decided it wasn’t quite boring enough for a straight to streaming Nic Cage film and massaged anything of any interest at all out of the final product. It didn’t win me the lottery, either.

Schrader was never given the chance to do an official director’s cut, so created his own, ‘released’ only in the sense that it can be seen at university film archives he donated copies to, and something I have definitely never heard of called The Pirate Bay. It’s listed separately on IMDB and Schrader considers it a distinct entity, so on that basis I have deemed it worthy of entry into the canon of Nicolas Cage films you can play the lottery with.

In case you haven’t seen the justifiably panned and forgotten original, it concerns Evan Lake (Cage), a CIA agent who wants to take revenge on the terrorist who tortured him 20 years ago – but his time is running out because that torture has left him with progressively worsening brain damage-induced dementia. Imagine if the Mission Impossible films had no budget and replaced 98% of the action sequences with depressing sequences of Tom Cruise talking about his frontal lobe injuries and you’re more or less there.

While Dark is practically just the same material recut, there’s a (partly necessary) jankyness about it which entirely fits a story about a man whose brain is disintegrating – jumpier editing, a rougher soundtrack, sudden switches to versions of a scene seemingly filmed as it was being played back on a monitor – it’s bordering on being an art installation piece. The film collapses entirely into a lurid audiovisual distortion partway through the final scene – it’s all meaningless, maaaan.

Does it save the film? I mean, if for some reason your children are going to be shot unless you watch a version of Dying Of The Light, sure, pick Dark, on the raw level at which films are pictures and noises it is more interesting. But the original footage is just fundamentally not very good – no-one but Cage gets anything to do whatsoever, and even he struggles to spark anything out of such relentlessly downbeat material. Still, I do want to put on an art exhibition of weird alternate edits of Nicolas Cage movies now, and I do need some funding for that, so I’d better buy a lottery ticket!

THE NUMBERS

20 – The bad terrorist Muhammad Banir has been dead for 20 years. SPOILERS: he has not been dead for 20 years at all!

23 – There’s a car chase involving a Romanian police car with the number plate SC23BAR.

30 – A NAUGHTY doctor charges 30,000 Euros to treat a terrorist’s disease.

45 – Cage’s character repeatedly does a counting exercise where he counts back from 45 by subtracting 7 each time (45, 38, 31 etc). I misunderstood this totally when picking the lottery numbers for Dying Of The Light and picked the wrong numbers because of it but I’ve just checked and I wouldn’t have won anything anyway, which is good because I’m not sure I could have come back from that, mentally.

54 – At some point a phone call is made to someone in Kenya – the number starts 254. 2 indicates the international code for a country in Africa, the 54 indicates Kenya.

57 – Evan Lake’s grave (SPOILERS) indicates that he was born in 1957.

THE RESULT

Lottery draw: 2598

Date: Saturday 14 November, 2020

Jackpot: £4,128,919

Draw machine: Arthur

Ball set: 6

Balls drawn: 25,37,39,44,50,56

Bonus ball: 13

Numbers selected: 20,23,30,45,54,57

Matching balls: 0

Numbers selected (lucky dip): N/A

Matching balls (lucky dip): N/A

Winnings: £0 (£0 to date)

Total Profit/Loss: £-170

No matches. AGAIN. I’ve been doing this for FIVE WEEKS and haven’t matched a single ball. Is it possible that following Cage into the ways of the Nouveau Shamanic isn’t the way to win the lottery?

Here’s the thing – since the UK lottery changed so that it uses 59 balls, in each draw you have a greater than 50% chance of matching at least one ball. There’s actually only a 3.4% chance of playing the lottery 5 times in a row and getting nothing. I also failed to match any of the bonus balls, and the chances of THAT happening is just 0.93%.

Which must PROVE that trying to win the lottery by watching Nicolas Cage movies CAN cause very unlikely things to happen, even if they’re not currently the things that I want to happen. Let’s see where this goes.

NEXT TIME ON NICOLAS CAGE

It’s that one film that your boyfriend wouldn’t stop banging on about in 2018: Mandy!