Cate Blanchett in ‘Thank God He Met Lizzie’

We go way back for this episode, to Cate Blanchett’s early screen performance in the Australian film Thank God He Met Lizzie. We discuss the film, the performance and its link to Katharine Hepburn’s screen persona as well as Blanchett’s long professional partnership with the film’s other star, Richard Roxburgh. Hosted, produced, written and edited by Murtada Elfadl.

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What is the film about?

A man named Guy (Richard Roxburgh) examines his romantic life during his wedding party.

Who does Cate play? Another titular role. She’s Lizzie, Guy’s betrothed.

 How is Cate introduced?  8 mins in, another star entrance. She’s shown first from behind, then turns around in slow motion indicating to the audience this is someone we should pay attention to.

What year did it come out? 1997.

Topics discussed:

  • Where does Thank God he Met Lizzie fit into the wedding movie genre?
  • Cate Blanchett in romantic comedies; how does she fare and should she make more of them? Bandits was previously discussed.
  • Cate and Richard Roxburgh, a long professional partnership in the theater. How do they fare on film?
  • Cate’s performance is reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s screen persona as described by critic Molly Haskell in her book From Reverence to Rape. Of course Cate played hepburn in The Aviator.
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Cate Blanchett in ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’

This week a double Cate Balnchett. In one of eleven vignettes included in Jim Jarmusch’s anthology film Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), Blanchett plays a version of herself as well as her ne’er do well “cousin,” Shelly. We discuss the film and performance and why it stands out in her filmography. For this conversation podcast host Murtada Elfadl welcomes writer and critic Ela Bittencourt of the film site Lyssaria.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A series of vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes in common.

Who does Cate play? A version of herself as Movie Star Cate blanchett meeting her cousin Shelly (also Blanchett) for coffee at the lobby of a swanky hotel. 

 How is Cate introduced? Her vignette titled Cousins starts 42 mins in.

What year did it come out? 2003

Critical Response: Metacritic : 65 RT: 64%

Topics discussed:

  • What does Blanchett’s as a star actor gain from taking this smaller role besides collaborating with Jarmusch?
  • The trick and gimmick of playing against or with yourself makes Blanchett’s the standout vignette. There’s in the visual and sonic contrast between the two characters blond vs dark haired, business couture vs. casual punk, thick Australian accent vs a more continental one.
  • Interlocking themes include disinterest from one of the two parties, almost all the meetings start with eagerness then end in disappointment.
  • The different acting styles within the film; heightened (Blanchett), natural (Bill Murray), grounded and “real” (Alfred Molina).
  • This performance reminded me of her performances in Documentary Now; she’s playing an exaggerated version of someone famous but in this case herself. Also Manifesto where she plays up the costumes and makeup to create distinct characters.
  • What we enjoy about Jim Jarmusch mentioning some of his other films including Paterson and Only Lovers Left Alive.
  • We reminisce briefly about watching Blanchett on stage as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

In the two strongest chapters — the one featuring Ms. Blanchett and another in which Steve Coogan and Alfred Molina play a deft game of celebrity one-upmanship — such vague discomforts blossom into one-act dramas of envy and suspicion.[It] has the serendipitous coherence of an old LP. Some of the tracks are stronger than others, but the magic lies in the echoes and unexpected harmonies between the selections. ” – Dana Stevens, NYTimes.

The scorecard at the end is unimpressive: six outright duds, three passable bits, and only two successes. The irony is that the best sketches also happen to be the most conventional. In “Cousins,” Cate Blanchett plays herself and her resentful cousin, Shelly, meeting for coffee in a posh hotel lobby. Blanchett’s Cate is regal, classy and generous—the way we imagine Blanchett herself to be. The punky Shelly, meanwhile, exudes passive-aggressive envy, her self-deprecation doubling as a sly prick on the self-conscious Cate’s conscience.” – Elbert Ventura, Reverse Shot.

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When Carey Mulligan was compared to Audrey Hepburn

In a snippet from the podcast host Murtada Elfadl and guest Jordan Crucchiola discuss how and why the media compared carey Mulligan to Audrey Hepburn at the time of the release of An Education (2009) and whether that comparison still stands today.

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Was Jennifer Lawrence in ‘American Hustle’ inspired by Cate Blanchett in ‘Bandits’?

In a snippet from the podcast host Murtada Elfadl and guest Kevin Jacobsen discuss a pivotal scene in the film Bandits. In the scene Cate Blanchett is shown lipsyncing to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart; we dissect the comedic and dramatic elements and talk about how that performance might have been the blueprint for Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in American Hustle.

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Special Episode: Carey Mulligan

To celebrate this year’s Oscar nominations which were announced this week we have a special episode about one of the nominees for best actress; Carey Mulligan. We discuss her filmography, her screen persona and dig deeper into three films; Shame (2011), Wildlife (2018) and her latest Promising Young Woman for which she recieved her second Oscar nomination. For this conversation podcast host Murtada Elfadl welcomes producer and writer, Jordan Crucchiola host of Disaster Girls and Aughtsterio‪n podcasts.

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Topics Discussed:

  • The first time we saw Mulligan on screen and why we love watching her.
  • Broke out with An Education (2010) with comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, though that misses the thorniness of the character and the performance.
  • Often associated with British period films from her first role in Pride and Prejudice (2205) to Far From the Madding Crowd (2013) to Suffragette (2015) to The Dig (2021).
  • Promisng Young Woman and why this film and performance are taking Mulligan to the next level with the industry and audiences.
  • We go into detail about two of her performances; Sissy in Shame (2011) and Jeanette in Wildlife (2018).

Shame (2011):

  • At the time this was seen as a new direction for Mulligan to break from prim and proper British period pieces with a modern provocative character.
  • Her rendition of “New York, New York”… melancholy, defeated with piercing hurt.
  • Builds a complex prickly sibling relationship that’s rooted in physicality with Michael Fassbender.
  • The way she modulates her voice, sounds different as Sissy than her other characters.
  • We are not bad people, we just come from a bad place.” – a line delivery that unlocks the character and movie.

Wildlife (2018):

  • Carey’s performance. Exacting, mercurial… the character is messy but the actor is in control.
  • Follows a long tradition of ‘women unraveling” on screen that beget fantastic performances. Gena Rowlands (A Woman Under the Influence), Vivien Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine). This is my fave genre of films. On screen when women unravel they show their vulnerabilities, while men just become violent.
  • Why didn’t this film – impeccably made – find a bigger audience? Mulligan has talked about the negative reaction audiences had for her character.
  • A key line that unlocked the film for me “if you got a better plan for me, tell me I’ll try it.”
  • This is a performance whose brilliance lies in tiny moments despite a few loud notes.
  • The centerpiece scene; Jeanette’s clumsy seduction of Mr. Miller (Bill Camp) in the presence of her 14- year old son (Ed Oxenbould). 

Further Reading:

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2021 Oscars Best Actress

In a snippet from the podcast host Murtada Elfadl and guest Kevin Jacobsen discuss this year’s best actress race at the Oscars. And they choose their favorites; Frances McDormand in Nomadland and Andra Day in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Listen to the podcast this Sunday March 21st when we will have a special episode about the career of another nominee for best actress; Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman.

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Cate Blanchett in “Bandits’

A retread of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? A homage to the pop music of 1980s Welsh singing sensation Bonnie Tyler? The rare American studio film that celebrates polyamory? It’s all of these things; Barry Levinson’s Bandits (2001). It also has Cate Blanchett lip-synching, dancing and kissing both Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton. We also discuss our favorites in this year’s Oscar race for best actress as the nominations are announced. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Kevin Jacobsen host of And The Runner-Up Is podcast, who previously guested on our episode about Truth.

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Follow along, Bandits is available on HBO Max.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: Two bank robbers fall in love with the girl they’ve kidnapped.

When did it come out?

October 12, 2001.

Who does Cate play?

Kate Wheeler, a bored depressed housewife looking for adventure.

How is Cate introduced?

Kate Wheeler is talked about all through the first scene but then we have to wait 35 minutes for the iconic Bonnie Tyler lip sync dance Holding Out for a Hero / Total Eclipse of the Heart.

Box Office: Domestic = $41.5MM Int’l = $26MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 60 RT: 64

Topics discussed:

  • Obviously A Butch cassidy and the Sundance Kid retread.
  • The initial car drive with Billy Bob – the best scene in the movie, certainly Cate’s funniest.
  • Bruce Willis’ wig needs to be seen to be believed.
  • Neil Young jokes? The humor in general seems not funny. The film drags, its comedic rhythm off.
  • Appreciated that the movie ultimately is on the side of polyamory. Can’t think of another American studio film that does that.
  • The framing device – a take on TV’s America’s Most Wanted – does it work? Or does it bog down the film and puncture its rhythm?
  • Billy Bob Thornton is too much. Too many quirks. Lots of telling us how quirky the character and not enough showing us.
  • Was this performance by Blanchett the blueprint for Jennifer Lawrence’s in American Hustle (2013)?
  • Barry Levinson, this came post his heyday in the late 80s (Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam, Bugsy, Wag the Dog) and was perhaps his last big star driven film. Currently in the news gathering quite the cast (Oscar Isaac, Jake Gyllenhaal, Elisabeth Moss and Elle Fanning) for his movie about the making of The Godfather (1971), Francis and the Godfather.
  • Which of Cate’s upcoming movies are we looking forward to? James Gray’s Armageddon Time, Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Borderlands.
  • How come she dropped out of the Lucille Ball movie? Let’s speculate.
Thornton, Blanchett and Willis in Bandits

Memorable quotes:

“Don’t argue I’m having a really bad day.”

“Kate’s an iceberg, waiting for the Titanic.”

”It’s the ultimate haiku to the complexity of love.” 

Blanchett, Troy Garity and Bruce Willis in Bandits

What reviews said of film / Cate:

A comedy that might have made Butch and Sundance jump off a cliff.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, EW.

Bandits” is guilty of behaving like a petty thievery corporation; it steals from so many other sources that we’re forced to realize that it has little of its own to offer. But in isolated scenes, despite its photocopy quality, ‘Bandits” has a knockabout glimmer.” – A.O. Scott, NYTimes.

Films with context of Cate’s career:

We have talked about it before on the pod, another film in those post Elizabeth years where she was trying lots of genres to distance herself from her breakout role and prove she can do different thins. Here a rom-com.

Cate Blanchett with Helen Mirren at the NBR in January 2002

Awards:

Golden Globes : Nominations for Cate (Actress in a Comedy) and Thornton (Actor in a Comedy).

Screen Actors Guild: Nomination for Cate (Supporting Actress).

National Board of Review: Thornton (Best Actor also for The Man Who Wasn’t There and Monster’s Ball). When you are hot, you are hot. Thornton was at a career highs (post Sling Blade, Armageddon and A Simple Plan). Cate won NBR’s supporting actress award that year for her other 2001 movies LOTR, The Man Who Cried and The Shipping News. This this is the one movie they did not cite.

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The Trope of the Predatory Lesbian in ‘Notes on a Scandal’

In this snippett from the podcast two queer critics, host Murtada Elfadl in conversation with Teo Bugbee, talk about the trope of the predatory lesbian in NOTES ON A SCANDAL and their differnt reactions to it. They also pit the film problematic character Barbara Covett against another queer predator, Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr. Ripley.

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Cate Blanchett’s Most Memorable Moment on Screen?

Well she has many and this is certainly one of them. What’s yours? Tell us below in the comments.

In this snippett from the podcast, host Murtada Elfadl in conversation with Izzy from Be Kind Rewind discuss why Cate Blanchett’s iconic monologue from Elizabeth:The Golden Age (2007) endures.

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A Sunday with Dame Judi Dench

We have a special episode this week, a companion to our discussion last week of Notes on a Scandal. We visit with the Dame, Judi Dench. We discuss her film career, with deep dives into an early entry A Room With a View (1986) and the film that launched her film stardom Mrs. Brown (1997). Returning for this conversation with our host Murtada Elfadl is writer and critic Teo Bugbee.

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Topics Discussed:

  • General impression of the Dame, which performances do we enjoy, what does she bring to screen?
  • Our first time watching Judi Dench at the movies – Shakespeare in Love (1998). She won an Oscar playing Elizabeth I the same year Cate did in Elizabeth.
Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in A Room with a View (1986)
  • The duet with another Dame, Maggie Smith in A Room with a View.
  • Mrs. Brown (1997) was her big breakout film. It was originally intended as a TV movie until a certain producer was impressed and bought it for theaters.
Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Dench, Smith and Bill Nighy in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
  • Other notable screen roles include Iris, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena, Skyfall.
  • We play a game: Who said it, Cate or Judi?
  • Briefly touch ob other career highlights from her early theater work – her Lady Macbeth (1976) is considered the standard, to the current iteration; tik tok sensation.

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