Coming Soon A Blue Jasmine Mini Series

The podcast will be back soon, with 3 episodes on Blue Jasmine (2013).

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Episode 13 – Cate Blanchett in ‘Heaven’

That heart wrenching closeup. That iconic buzzcut. That performance many think is one of Cate Blanchett’s best. This week Murtada welcomes Kyle Stevens to discuss Heaven (2002), directed by Tom Tykwer.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A woman takes the law into her own hands after police ignore her pleas to arrest the man responsible for her husband’s death, and finds herself not only under arrest for murder but falling in love with an officer.

What year did it come out?

October 2002.

Who does Cate play?

Philippa an English teacher living in Turin, Italy who carries out a vengeful act.

How is Cate introduced?

A few minutes in as Phillippa prepares for her quest.

Box Office: Domestic = $784,399 Int’l = $3,462,690

Metacritic : 68 RT: 74

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Topics Discussed:

  • Conceived as a  new trilogy: Heaven, Purgatory and  Hell from director Krzysztof Kieslowski and his writing partner, Krzysztof Piesiewicz who made Blue, White and Red.
  • What could’ve been if Kieslowski didn’t pass on before making it?
  • The first few minutes Blanchett body movement looks nothing I’ve ever seen from her. Usually she glides into the frame, here she awkwardly walks, sometimes even waddling. 
  • Beautiful visuals… the look is sometimes breathtaking …
  • Jarring to native Italian speakers? I trust Cate with accents 
  • The plot is facile, easy but is that part of the fable , the unreality of it 
  • The ending – did they ascend literally to heaven?
  •  Ribisi – yay or nay?
  • Revisiting Elizabeth (1998)

Scenes we liked:

  • The interrogation scene. Long, fantastic,  The emotions on her face as she realizes the truth. That perfect fall to the floor as she’s overwhelmed… the polar opposite of getting up from the floor on Carol. Yet both show us how remarkable she is at using her to act and give us beautiful images at the same time.
  • The confession in the church scene specially her reaction to Ribisi saying “I love you.”

What seemed off:

Did the film successfully mix the grounded visceral elements of its story with the dreamy metaphysical ending?

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Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  From all the early 2000s films she made, this is the only one remembered fondly.

Film within the context of year it’s been released:

  • This was a Miramax release in the year of The Hours, Gangs of New York and Chicago – so we assume it got lost in the shuffle.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“In ”Heaven” the Australian dramatic chameleon Cate Blanchett gives the most compelling screen performance of her career as a principled terrorist whose desperate act of violence tragically backfires, leaving her broken and reeling with despair and self-loathing.

As her character, Philippa, a recently widowed young English teacher living in Turin, Italy, disintegrates, Ms. Blanchett registers a wrenching series of quick emotional changes. Upon learning that her carefully plotted act of vigilantism has resulted in the deaths of innocent people, her defiance gives way in seconds to shock, then to horror, then to self-realization so painful that she doubles up and crumples onto the floor, unconscious.

Although Ms. Blanchett’s face has always registered emotion with a mercurial fluidity, the immediacy of feeling she conveys in ”Heaven” is astonishing. It also allows her to carry off the seemingly impossible feat of making us care passionately about a woman who has committed an unforgivable crime.” – Stephen Holden, NY Times.

“Blanchett’s performance confirms her power once again. She never goes for an effect here, never protects herself, just plays the character straight ahead as a woman forced by grief and rage into a rash action, and then living with the consequences.” – Roger Ebert

Promotional work:

 

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Highlights Show

This week we do not have a new film to discuss because of the holidays. Instead we are looking back at our first 12 episodes and what we learned about the films of Cate Blanchett so far. 

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A few themes have emerged and beacme apparent:

  • An Oscar nominated performance can be underrated, case in point I’m Not There (2008)
  • The early 2000s were a rough time to be a Blanchett fan; Charlotte Gray? The Shipping News? The Gift?
  • How and why she won the Oscar for playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004)

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  • Who are Cate Blanchett classic age dopplegangers besides Hepburn? Bette Davis, Joan Crawford or Marlene Dietrich?
  • Little Fish (2005) deserves to be seen
  • A new appreciation for Ocean’s Eight (2018)
  • Elizabeth (1998) remain a huge touchstone in Blanchett’s career

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Happy Holidays

With 12 episodes released I want to say thank you for listening and for making the podcast a reality.

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As we close 2019 and look forward to a new year I wanted to thank you for being a big part of my year. We have discussed many of Cate Blanchett’s films with many more coming in 2020.

We’ve discussed some big blockbusters (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and smaller movies (Little Fish, Oscar and Lucinda).

We have talked about her uncanny transformations ino Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, Bob Dylan inI’m Not There and a sorta Marina Abramovic in Documentary Now.

We talked about her big breakout in Elizabeth, the peak of her celebrity post Carol around the time Ocean’s 8 was released.

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and coming in 2020:

  • Deep dives into Carol and Blue Jasmine, the peak of her success
  • takes on her theatrical work all over the world
  • recaps of the FX/Hulu show Mrs America; coming in the spring

 

 

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Episode 12 – Cate Blanchett in ‘Documentary Now’ / ‘Manifesto’

We are going avant garde because “art is supposed to be radical.” Murtada welcomes Shelley Farmer to discuss Waiting for the Artist (2019), an episode of Documentary Now and the film Manifesto (2017) which started as an art installation.

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Documentary Now: Waiting for The Artist

What is the film about?

An episode of the third season of Documentary Now inspired by the Marina Abramovic doc The Artist is Present. From imdb: A performance artist returns to her native Hungary for a career retrospective.

What is Documentary Now? 

an American mockumentary television series, created by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas. The series spoofs celebrated documentary films by parodying the style of each documentary with a similar, but fictitious, subject. Notable episodes include spoofs of Grey Gardens, The Thin Blue Line and Company Original Cast Album.

What year did it come out?

 2019

Who does Cate play?

 Izabella Barta, a take on Marina Abramovic.

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Topics discussed:

  • Documentary Now the series, what they are good at, memorable episodes, why is it a must see?
  • Mimicry, she’s an ace after all she played both Bob Dylan and Katharine Hepburn so to take to this absurd level is fun.
  • Adding absurdity to all the re-creations of Marina Abramovic, this a spoof of her 2012 documentary The Artist is Present.
  • This is a fun absurd register that she doesn’t play with in her films though she has played ridiculous (Crystal Skull, Cinderella).

Memorable quotes:

  • “I am human”
  • “Got pain in my uterus already”
  • “It’s supposed to be radical”

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What reviews said about Cate:

“There’s a genuine, and familiar, tragedy underneath Blanchett’s Slavic accent, and she doesn’t play the part for laughs. There’s humor in the episode, but it’s the humor of recognition, not release. Even if it’s fiction, “Waiting for the Artist” still feels like it’s documenting something real.” – Sam Adams, Slate

“The episode is written by Seth Meyers, and its brilliance lies in how tenderly both he and Blanchett approach Barta, a woman whose installations have included getting strangers to pass her toilet paper and pretending to be a cat. Performance art is so ripe for parody that it almost resists it. But Meyers, whether accidentally or not, finds some real meaning in Barta’s work, which attempts to expose the absurd suffering of the human condition.” – Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Fun project that shows she can be in on the joke playing off her persona as a great actress.

Other references:

Behind the scenes of the episode @ IndieWire

Recently Cate and Marina spent time together in London.

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MANIFESTO

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What is the film about?

Official Synopsis: Manifesto pays homage to the tradition and literary beauty of artistic manifestos, ultimately questioning the role of the artist in society today. Performing these ‘new manifestos’ as a contemporary call to action while inhabiting thirteen different personas, Academy Award winner-Cate Blanchett imbues new dramatic life into both famous and lesser-known words in unexpected contexts. Details about the 12 manifestos here.

What year did it come out?

the installation came out in 2015, the film in 2017.

Who does Cate play?

13 characters reciting 12 manifestos.

 Metacritic : 72. RT: 76

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Topics to discuss:

  • Does it work as a movie? What makes it a movie if it is? Is it entertaining.
  • The installation which I saw in NY at the Park Avenue Armory
  • You get 13 Cate performances in 90 minutes. Heaven or overkill?
  • The makeup and hair artists are standouts
  • The conception of the characters – a trick to play with an actor’s outside attributes as opposed to soul. Fits the film but what does it add to Blanchett’s reputation?
  • She gets to detail so many little gestures in building her characters, as a gestural actor it must have been wonderful to play 
  • Her performance as Bob Dylan influenced the conception of this project
  • Is it navel gazing? People who consider themselves artists making a project about artistic manifestos.
  • Her husband and children appear in the “Pop Art’ segment
  • Released as a film to pay for the installation

Scenes we liked

  • “Dada is still shit, but from now on we want to shit in different colors.”
  • When she makes a little Cate doll.
  • Norma Desmond come to life as the choreographer
  • “When discourse is opinion,” “when you don’t have to know anything yet you think you know everything” drag EVERYONE Cate. The film comes to life here.

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Film within context of Cate’s career:

Bolsters her reputation as a chameleon without any expectations that may come with a “regular” film.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“The surprise here is that Rosefeldt has managed to deliver an intellectually-charged, cheeky, and very funny film that feels unruly and expansive in spite of its tight 12-day shooting schedule and its focus on just one performer. Blanchett has no fear as a performer, and she has such enormous appetite for acting that she rips into each of the characters she is playing in “Manifesto” as if she were hungrily stripping meat off of chicken legs and then hurling the bones over her shoulder. She is such an acting prodigy that she needs to be properly challenged, and “Manifesto” is such a challenging and unlikely project that Blanchett uses her talent as she never has before, splashing it all over the screen and making bold gestures that only become physically overdone when she plays an Eastern European choreographer in a turban.” – Dan Callahan, The Wrap.

“There’s an apocryphal story about turn-of-the-century theater queen Sarah Bernhardt reading the phone book so emotionally that the audience was left weeping. That’s what Blanchett is doing here. She adds a human element. She can turn anything into art. Even artistic navel-gazing.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone

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Episode 11 – Cate Blanchett in ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’

A sea expedition to find a killer shark. A riff on Jacques Cousteau. Cate Blanchett enters the quirky and unique world of Wes Anderson. Murtada welcomes producer and filmmaker Erica Mann to discuss The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).

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What is the film about?

From imdb: With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, Oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.

What year did it come out?

2004. Post Lost in Translation (2003) for Murray. Same year as The Aviator for Cate.

Who does Cate play?

Jane Winslett-Richardson, a reporter from the Oceanographic Explorer, interviewing Zissou.

How is Cate introduced?

23 minutes in, appearing the mist before the Zissou guys and kinda taking their breath away. “Those are Vietcong man-of-wars.”

Box Office: Domestic = $24MM Int’l = $10.7MM.

Metacritic : 62. RT: 66.

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Topics discussed:

  • A riff on Jacque Cousteau?
  • Does Cate fit in Anderson’s world? His artificial deadpan style? 
  • Chemistry with  Owen Wilson. Cate in love stories… playing “the girl” never seems to fit her.  
  • As in every Anderson film, the frame is full of detail. Color, unique costumes, actors doing odd things and moving deliberately.
  • Costumes by Oscar winner Melana Cananero and the impeccable design of the boat.
  • Wes Anderson – yay or nay. Our history with him. Favorite films? What do we like about his films? This is his 4th film post Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.
  • Does this film fail the bechdel test? Huston and Blanchett have one scene together where they talk about her pregnancy and Zissou “shooting blanks.”

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What seemed off:

 Too much quirkiness or what Stephanie Zacharek referred to as “waterlogged with whimsy.”

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Released the same year as The Aviator and perhaps that’s why it’s a forgotten blip in career.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Having established a rather hectic set of narrative premises Mr. Anderson proceeds to treat them casually, dropping in swatches of action and feeling when they suit his atmospheric purposes. He is less a storyteller than an observer and an arranger of odd human specimens. “The Life Aquatic” is best compared to a lavishly illustrated, haphazardly plotted picture book – albeit one with frequent profanity and an occasional glimpse of a woman’s breasts – the kind dreamy children don’t so much read start to finish as browse and linger over, finding fuel for their own reveries.” Dana Stevens, The NYTimes 

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The film is often quite funny, but there are no bits and no punch lines. Laughing at any point makes about equal sense. The low-key comic style lets the audience notice the absurdity, while allowing the actors to play the emotions straight. Thus Murray and Wilson are able to achieve a father-son poignancy in their interaction, even though most of their scenes are intentionally and faintly ridiculous. Murray’s scenes with Cate Blanchett work similarly. She plays a virtual parody of a crusading journalist, a five-months-pregnant magazine writer interviewing Steve for a “cover story,” a prospect that fills him with hope and paranoia. Their conversations satirize the tortured dance of celebrities and reporters. Yet “The Life Aquatic” also takes us into the pain of a working woman, on her own, pregnant by a married lover.- Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle.

Cate Blanchett proves she can do anything, even things she should not do.- Roger Ebert.

Promotional appearances:

At the Berlin Film Festival. 

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Episode 10 – Ocean’s 8 and the Peak of Cate Blanchett’s Celebrity

This week Murtada welcomes Kate Halliwell, who writes for The Ringer and hosts Tea Time podcast to discuss Ocean’s 8 and the period post Carol (2015) which they both consider to be Blanchett’s peak celebrity and pop culture power.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.

What year did it come out?

2018

Who does Cate play?

 Lou Miller, second in command to Debbie Miller. The Pitt to Bullock’s Clooney. Butch femme, loves motorcycles and wears a mean jumpsuit and leather pants.

How is Cate introduced? 

6 minutes in tampering with the vodka while Judge Judy plays in the background. 

 Box Office: Domestic = $140,218,711 Int’l = $ 157,500,000

Metacritic : 61 RT: 69

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Topics discussed:

1- Ocean’s 8

  • BDE – was that created just to describe Cate’s energy in this film?
  • The paparazzi photos during shooting – Cate and Rihanna in Central Park, that cute dog dancing – were better than the movie!
  • Hustlers is the movie we hoped Ocean’s 8 would be
  • Who’s the mvp : Anne Hathaway or Cate’s wardrobe? 

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  • Cate’s wardrobe; props to the costume designer Sarah Edwards for getting it right and perhaps reflecting an edgier more downtown side of Cate’s IRL aesthetic.
  • The chemistry between Cate and Sandra. 
  • What scenes did we like? What seemed off? 

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2- Cate’s post Carol’s celebrity power

  • The memes, the devotion, the hive, the conspiracy theories… it’s a movement.
  • Harold they’re lesbians!
  • Cate as a fashion icon, how she understands the red carpet is performance why she gets many abuzz when she glides down a carpet or releases a magazine photo shoot.
  • What is the peak pop culture moment for Cate post 2015?

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1) the Carol press tour late 2015 into 2016

2) Presiding over the Jury at Cannes May 2018

3) The Ocean’s 8 press tour (that Today Show interview with Sarah Paulson, the many suits she wore to all the press events) May-June 2018

4) Lip-synching at a drag show in NYC February 2017 to Dusty Springfield’s You Don’t Own Me

5) Even fellow celebrities are stans; from Gillian Anderson to Val Kilmer

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Episode 9 – Cate Blanchett in ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’

We are going big this week. Big movie. Big performance. Murtada welcomes Gavin Mevius, co-host of The Mixed Reviews Podcast to discuss Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

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What is the film about?

 From imdb: In 1957, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. is called back into action and becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.

When did it come out?

May 2008

Who does Cate play?

Dr Irina Spalko; a doctor, colonel, and the primary antagonist of the film. She is a psychic, as well as a very skilled fencer and combatant. Called “Stalin’s fair haired girl” by one of the characters.

How is Cate introduced? 

 5 minutes in; first a commanding voice then cutaway to her in sunglasses emerging from car. As usual with Cate it’s a movie star entrance.

Box Office: Domestic = $317,101,119          Int’l = $469,534,914

Metacritic : 65. RT: 78.

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Topics discussed:

  • What did we think of the first 3 Indiana Jones movies? Why was this one so indifferently and or negatively received?
  • Steven Spielberg – general yay or nay? Fave films?
  • A ridiculous, campy over the top stylized performance. Everything heightened visually (the gray jumpsuit, the robotic body movements, the black bob), sonically (accent, clipped tones) – does it work?
  • Cate gets asked to play villains in big movies – Hana (2010), Cinderella (2015), Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Why? 
  • Lovely to see Karen Allen, remember Starman (1983)?
  • A lot of unnecessary exposition of backstory – just get to the action. And Ford is leaning into old professor delivery which doesn’t enliven the scenes.
  • The snakes, scorpions, quick sands, everyone’s phobias are there. Are they fun? Did we miss these from the other movies?
  • Ford and Allen trying Tracy / Hepburn – does it work?
  • Ridiculous refigerator scene. But it sets the tone and we now know what to do in a nuclear apocalypse.

“What people really jumped at was Indy climbing into a refrigerator and getting blown into the sky by an atom-bomb blast. Blame me. Don’t blame George. That was my silly idea. People stopped saying ‘jump the shark.’ They now say, ‘nuked the fridge.’ I’m proud of that. I’m glad I was able to bring that into popular culture.” – Spielberg to CNN.

  • Who wields the sword best? Shia really had no chance
  • Why the disdain for this performance? Was the film not exciting enough? Was there Cate fatigue at the time? That ludicrous death scene? 

Memorable quotes:

  • “You’re a teacher?” “Only part time”
  • “You fight like a young man. Eager to begin, quick to finish”
  • “Tell me I’m ready, I want to know”

Costumes we loved?

Well it’s just the one; an all -pupose gray jumpsuit.

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Lucas, Spielberg, Ford and Blanchett at the Cannes Film Festival May 2008

Scenes we liked:

The car chase in the forest with the sword fighting – exciting.

What seemed off:

  • Is the action exciting? What NY Magazine called “the setups are wittier than the payoffs.”
  • The plot is ridiculous as befits this type of movie, but it’s too ridiculous and unnecessarily dense and confusing.

Film within context of Cate’s career

This film was announced after Cate revealed her break with movies to run the Sydney Theater Company.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

The bad guys this time are cold war Reds first seen poking around an American military base and led by Irina Spalko. A caricature given crude, playful life by Cate Blanchett, Irina owes more than a little to Rosa Klebb, the pint-size Soviet operative played by Lotte Lenya, who took on James Bond in “From Russia With Love.”

Dressed in gray coveralls, her hair bobbed and Slavic accent slipping and sliding as far south as Australia, Ms. Blanchett takes to her role with brio, snapping her black gloves and all but clicking her black boots like one of those cartoon Nazis that traipse through earlier Indy films. She’s pretty much a hoot, the life of an otherwise drearily familiar party.Manohla Dargis, NYTimes

“Harrison Ford used to lighten his clenched persona with goofy shrugs that said, “I can only go so far with this hero stuff.” But the years have dried him out; he seems like a peevish movie star who’s too self-centered to interact. When he’s supposed to realize that Marion is the love of his life, he looks as if he’s gritting his teeth to kiss her. Blanchett—a great art object, her satin skin taut over those Asiatic cheekbones—hits the same note with diminishing returns. How many variations are there of “We meet again, Dr. Jones?”  David Edelstein, New York Magazine

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Irina Spalko, played by Blanchett with the severe demeanor of Cyd Charisse’s Ninotchka in the 1957 MGM musical Silk Stockings and the black bob Charisse sports in The Band Wagon.”- Richard Corliss, Time.

“Blanchett, who has absolutely no idea what to do with her role: She’s equal parts evil and incompetent, and she’s the least dangerous villain Indiana Jones has ever faced. Turns out that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are far more threatening foes.”The Village Voice

Cate in relation to these co-stars, director, costume designer:

  • Only collaboration with Spielberg, Ford, Labeouf and Allen.
  • Kathleen Kennedy – current overlord of Star Wars – produced this and Benjamin Button, released in the same year.

Promotional appearances:

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Episode 8 – Cate Blanchett in ‘Oscar and Lucinda’

One of Cate Blanchett’s earliest films, Oscar and Lucinda finds her working in Australia with Gillian Armstrong and Ralph Fiennes. It’s an odd, eccentric but very feminist tale.

HostMurtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest : Andy Stewart.

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What is the film about?

 From imdb: In mid-1800s England, Oscar, a young Anglican priest, and Lucinda, a teen-aged Australian heiress, are both passionate gamblers. Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport a glass church to the Outback safely, and this leads to the events that will change both their lives forever.

What year did it come out?

December 1997.

Who does Cate play?

Lucinda, an heiress obsessed with glass and gambling and who has an almost desperate desire to liberate her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the Australia of that time.

How is Cate introduced?

13 minutes in the pond speaking French. 

Box Office: Domestic = $1.8M   Int’l = Unknown.

Metacritic : 66. RT: 66.

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Topics discussed:

  • Chemistry with Ralph Fiennes. Funny that their paths never crossed again.
  • Cate in love stories. Always weird, this is one and Benjamin Button was another. Why?
  • Costumes by Oscar nominated Janet Patterson (The Piano, Far From the Madding Crowd).
  • Lucinda as a feminist character to be admired.
  • Gilliam Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career – another headstrong feminist heroine. Role was originally meant for Judy Davis.
  •  Has a strange combination of b plot themes and tones:  rape and murder of indigenous Australian people, religious themes. It starts as a love story, becomes a grim sorta war story  while telling the from cradle to grave life story of the titular characters.
  • The whole Oscar trip without Lucinda was weird and tried my patience.
  • They meet almost 40 minutes into the film, then they are separated for the last 40, it is a strange conceit for what is a maybe love story.
  • Cate and Richard Roxburgh – who plays the villian – have acted together many times on stage.

Memorable quotes:

In order that I exist, two gamblers, one obsessive, one compulsive, must meet.” 

Costumes we loved:

They look right for the period though not memorable. More memorable is that they are roughed up and tousled, don’t look pristine like stuffy costume dramas.

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Fiennes, Blanchett and Armstrong on set

 Scenes we liked:

The confession scene where Oscar and Lucinda “lay their cards on the table” is exhilarating and fun. Played for comedy and both actors are playing several notes.

What seemed off:

Mash up of tones which made it interesting if not entirely successful.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Her second film post Paradise Road (1997).
  • Shekhar Kapur saw stills or scenes from it and cast her in Elizabeth (1998), ultimately leading to her breakout and huge career.
  • Seems to have a small passionate following among Cate’s fans, though not broadly remembered in the culture.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

Ms. Blanchett, whose strength and vivacity recall the young Judy Davis ”My Brilliant Career,” is appealingly well teamed with Mr. Fiennes, who manages to make Oscar as bashfully likable as he is quaint. ’ – Janet Maslin, NYTimes

Ralph Fiennes plays Oscar, an odd Anglican minister addicted to the thrills of wagering; Cate Blanchett is his soul mate, Lucinda — the kind of warm-blooded feminist that may be Armstrong’s most important contribution to the image of women on screen.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum EW

Press coverage other than reviews:

Armstrong to NYTimes on why she chose Cate for the part: “We were looking for someone who wasn’t quite conventional. Cate has this slightly magic quality, as if she can be transported into other worlds.’

Promotional appearances:

New York premiere December 1997.

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Episode 7 – Cate Blanchett in ‘Little Fish’

Perhaps Cate Blanchett’s least seen film, at least in the United States, Litte Fish (2005) is gritty and scrappy and unlike anything in her filmography.

HostMurtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest : Valerie Complex some of Valerie’s writing can be found here.

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  • What is the film about?

From imdb: Set in the Little Saigon district outside of Sydney, a woman (Blanchett) trying to escape her past becomes embroiled in a drug deal.

  • What year did it come out?

2005.

  • Who does Cate play?

 Tracy Louise Heart, a former heroin addict who is desperately trying to escape her past and achieve her goals and dreams. 

  • How is Cate introduced?

 A minute in; fully dressed under water in a pool- striking image.

 Box Office: Domestic = $8,148   Int’l = $ 3,240, 358.

Metacritic: 77. Tomato Meter: 90.

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Topics discussed:

  •  A gritty Cate movie, unlike anything else she’s done. Why hasn’t she done more like this? 
  • One of the very few Australian movie she’s made- others include Thank God He Met Lizzie and Oscar and Lucinda (both released in 1997 before her international breakout Elizabeth). Shot Truth in Australia with a largely Australian cast and crew though the story and production were American.
  • Blanchett in 2005 post her Oscar win.
  • Sexy romantic Blanchett – who does she have chemistry with and why? She has it in spades with Dustin Nguyen in this film.
  • Queer Sam Neil and Hugo Weaving and the queer undertones of the story.

Scenes we liked:          

  • The ending is dreamy and optimistic despite tragedy.
  • Everytime Tracy/Cate deals with authority (at the bank, at Jonny’s place of work).
  • “Flame Trees” children’s choir after Tracy buys drugs for the first time in many years.

What seemed off:

  •  The thriller elements are not entirely satisfying but the actors are superb.

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Film within context of Cate’s career:

  • The first film released post her first Oscar win for The Aviator. 
  • Though it didn’t register and seems a blip in her career now.

Film within the context of year it’s been released:

  • Hardly released in the US, for only week in limited release.

What reviews said of Cate/the film:

To sink or to swim: that is the question. In “Little Fish,” Cate Blanchett does both. The great Australian actress sinks into the role Tracy Heart, a 32-year-old recovering drug addict who manages a video store in Cabramatta, a Sydney suburb nicknamed Little Saigon for its large Vietnamese population and known as the heroin capital of Australia. As in all her screen performances, Ms. Blanchett immerses herself completely in her character, a damaged, high-strung woman determined to live the straight life while surrounded by temptation.” – Stephen Holden, The New York Times. 

 “The actors are terrific, especially Weaving, who plays bottoming out as a tragedy spiked with gallows humor, and Blanchett, who digs deep into the booby-trapped nature of recovery. The revelation, however, is Rowan Woods, a major filmmaker in the making.” – Owen Gleiberman, EW.

“The title, one supposes, refers both to the small packages of drugs the characters deal in and to the people themselves. They’re victims and survivors in a larger predatory world. Two related images run through the film – swimming and the seaside. Tracy is liberated by her daily sessions in a swimming pool (where her old love for Johnny is rekindled), and the family is drawn together at last during a purifying visit to the beach at dawn.” – Philip French, The Guardian.

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