A podcast series about the films of Cate Blanchett. The acting, the costumes, the awards but mostly the Blanchett of it all. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl.
Author: Murtada Elfadl
Murtada is a culture writer, critic, and podcaster. Originally from Khartoum, Sudan he decided to move to New York City when he got a New Yorker subscription at the age of 15. Many years later, the city remains his favorite place; he just wishes more movies in Arabic played here.
Cate Blanchett’s the top is so many ways. The top star, the top actress. And in Carol she plays the top. In the third of our multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the perfect merge of actor and role with Blanchett as Carol Aird. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes Maggie Larkin to discuss how Blanchett’s screen persona makes her the ideal actor to play this role.
How many times have we seen Carol – why does it resonate?
Why is Cate Blanchett so well suited to play Carol? What makes her such a compelling screen presence is what makes her perfect for Carol. The confidence, the glamour, being a consummate actor playing someone who’s always putting on a facade, forced to hide themselves from the world. She plays the text and the subtext, yet never shows all her cards.
Cate always fares better when she shares the screen with other women – think Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock etc.- She is far too intelligent and dominant when paired with men.
Deep dive into a few particular scenes that prove Blanchett is the perfect Carol.
The chemistry between Cate and Rooney Mara.
Favorite press tour moments 1) Santa barbara Award presentation 2) At Cannes.
Blanchett recieved a SAG nomination for Nightmare Alley. Will she be Oscar nominated?
For my coverage I’m writing shorter reviews of first impressions. Thoughts about the films I watched and plan to delve into more when they are releasd. Here’s the first dispatch on Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.
In Good Luck to You, Leo Grande Emma Thompson reminds us why we need movie stars. Why do we build that relationship over time and cherish it. Thompson is a great actress and here she’s playing a fictional character not herself. Yet so much of how I reacted to this performance was based on the history I have with Thompason. My idea of her screen persona and why I’ve always loved watching her.
Thompson is Nancy Stokes, a 50-ish widow who’s never had an orgasm in her life. She hires a sex worker (Daryl McCormack) and the film follows the two as they try fulfilling Nancy’s desires and fantasies over three encounters.The screenplay by Katy Brand and the direction by Sophie Hyde are both breezy, unfussy and McCormack is a clear comforting presence. A good foil for Thompson.
But this is all Thompson. And again our history with her. When she sits down to tell a sex memory, just lying in bed. No fuss in language, or camera movements. Just Thompson. We believe her but more than that we feel for her. We do that because we are also thinking of Margaret Schlagel and Elinor Dashwood and Lauren from Love Actually. Our feelings about her and her new wonderful performance crash into each other and the spillover is pure joy.
This week we go back to Cate Blanchett’s early career and another one of her “titular” roles, playing Irish journalist Veronica Guerin (2003). To discuss Joel Schumacher’s film, Murtada welcomes illustrator and designer Dash Silva to the podcast. This wide ranging conversation also covers Blue Jasmine, The Aviator, the accent work of Meryl Streep and a few of this year’s best actress awards contenders including Lady Gaga, Jessica Chastain and Kristen Stewart.
From Wikipedia: The film’s about Irish journalist Veronica Guerin, whose investigation into the drug trade in Dublin led to her murder in 1996, at the age of 37.
Who does Cate play? Veronica Guerin – another one of her “titular” roles.
How is Cate introduced? 2 mins in court defending herself as a reckless driver. It’s an exciting prelude before the film goes back 2 years to tell the story.
What year did it come out? 2003
Box Office: US $1.5MM, rest of the world $ 7.8MM Critical Response: Metacritic: 55 RT: 53
Guerin is a major figure in Ireland, the film came just a few years after her murder and tries to capture the legend.
A clear good vs. evil narrative. Does it get at the complexity of the story?
The portrayal of Guerin as dogged, focused, intimidating and intimidated, brave and frightened. Many notes for Cate to play.
An odd choice for Joel Schumacher or is it? He seems to make many different genres of film. Best known for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, he also directed a musical (The Phantom of the Opera), thrillers (8MM and Falling Down), melodramas (Dying Young and Flawless) and even a rom-com (Cousins). This is his Erin Brockovich.
Since Cate does an Irish accent here let’s pit her against the Accent Queen; Meryl Streep. Irish (Dancing at Lughnasa), Italian (The Bridges of Madison County vs. Cate actual Italian in Heaven ), English (Plenty vs. Notes on a Scandal).
Oscar winner Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) and current Oscar hopeful Ciaran Hinds (Befast) are in the cast. Plus a Colin Farrell cameo ( a meta joke since they talk about Eric Cantana who’s in Elizabeth).
This year’s best actress hopefuls; Lady Gaga in House of Gucci, Kristen Stewart in Spencer and Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
What critics said at the time:
Cate Blanchett plays Guerin in a way that fascinated me for reasons the movie probably did not intend. I have a sneaky suspicion that director Joel Schumacher and his writers (Carol Doyle and Mary Agnes Donoghue) think of this as a story of courage and determination, but what I came away with was a story of bone-headed egocentrism. There are moments when Guerin seems so wrapped up in her growing legend and giddy with the flush of the hunt that she barely notices her patient husband, who seems quite gentle, under the circumstances, in his suggestions that she consider the danger she’s in and think of their child. – Roger Ebert.
A witch and a warlock teach an orphan boy how to becme a magician in The House with a Clock in its Walls, one of Cate Blanchett’s more curious film choices. We discuss her performance, what makes co-star Jack Black special on screen and briefly touch on the response to her two films on release. For this conversation Murtada welcomes filmmaker and podcaster Chels, from Untitled Cinema Gals to the podcast.
Contemporary actresses who played witches include Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer(The Witches of Eastwick)Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Anjelica Huston (The Witches), Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock (Practical Magic), Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia). Who’d win in a battle?
We celebrate the annoucement of Blanchett’s collaboration with Pedro Almodovar for an adaptation of Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women.
In the second of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the cultural impact the film had on queer people. From memes to comedy routines, Carol was adored. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes writer and film programmer Shayna Maci Warner of Critically Queer, to review the film and talk about its queer legacy.
There’s a comet hurtling towards earth and a bunch of movie stars at trying to not look up at it. To discuss Cate Blanchett’s second movie this holiday season -Adam McKay’s climate change satire Don’t Look Up– Murtada welcomes critic Boyd van Hoeij from The Film Verdict to the podcast.
Don’t Look Up is being sold as a cross between Dr Strangelove and Network. Are the similies spot on?
The targets of the satire – incompetent governments, media, tech billionaires, populace believing in politics not science – are obvious. There’s a shorthand that makes each character’s real world avatar easy to get hence the laughs but does that undermine the film’s intelligence?
Huge cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Ariana Grande, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet… and more? Who’s funny? Who’s annoying? Who’s unmemorable? Who brought the heart and pathos? Who stands out?
Leo’s big Peter Finch-like monologue. Does it work?
In the first of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the love story. How Therese and Carol fell in love, how Todd Haynes visualizes falling in love and the scorching chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes filmmaker Luke Willis, to discuss all the above as well as rank the best line reading uttered by Blanchett.
Cate Blanchett is back in cinemas this holiday season. And the podcast is back for a final season of episodes. We kick things off with the first of the two Cate movies coming out this month, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. For this conversation Murtada welcomes film critic Leila Latif, to discuss the film, how it differs from 1947 version, and the performances of Cate as a femme fatale, Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper and Toni Colette.
Early on in Being the Ricardos the cast and crew of I Love Lucy are assembled for a table read of an episode of the show. It’s sometime in 1952. Something is off, they can’t land the jokes. Is it the writing? The actors? The film takes a jump into Lucille Ball’s head. She starts to imagine the show alive. And with that she’s able to pinpoint what’s off and of course fix it. This must be a film about Ball’s creative process? Alas that was a brief interlude, though it’s repeated a couple more times, how Ball (Nicole Kidman) creates or how her show is conceived are not top of mind for writer/director Aaron Sorkin. Instead he’s concerned with Ball being accused of communism, of how the show deals with her second pregnancy and if her husband and creative partner Desi Arnaz Jr (Javier Bardem) is faithful in their marriage.
The film takes place during one production week of I Love Lucy, or as the logline puts it “from Monday table read through Friday audience taping.” Somewhat entertaining, Being the Ricardos plays well as a behind the scenes look at I Love Lucy. Then it starts cramming a few too many plots into its “one week with Lucy” premise. The aforementioned fractured marriage even comes replete with flashbacks about how they met and fell in love. The second pregnancy subplot comes with stock characters representing the network and advertisers. We will deal with Lucy’s involvement with HUAC – The House Committee on Un-American Activities – later in this review. All seemingly interesting subplots. However each is peripherally introduced, quickly dealt with and neatly resolved. There’s no nuance, no complexity to any of it. Nothing grips the audience or resonates.
Most unforgivable from a seasoned screenwriter is an awkward framing device. Three writers from the show are shown in a present day setting introducing and commenting on the main action. This is a dramatic cop out for Sorkin. He can’t coherently bring together the different strands of his screenplay so he utilizes this lazy concept to make it make sense.
Kidman is known for her inconsistent accents. She always sounds Australian with a Los Angeles affectation, no matter where her character is supposed to be from. Whether Russian (the recent Hulu show Nine Perfect Strangers) or American (Big Little Lies and many others throughout her career). Here the accent is good for once and she dropped her voice an octave or two to mimic Ball’s. However beyond the voice work, her performance is subdued and remains at an emotional remove. Maybe it’s because Ball is mostly shown at work; a place where emotions are checked. However when playing one of the most animated people in the history of entertainment, a little passion is called for.
Bardem brings charm and effervescence to the film. With his performance you understand why Arnaz was a popular entertainer. Unlike Kidman. However both performances are only skin deep and do not grapple with why Lucy and Desi’s fracturced marriage endured as long as it did. We get neither the attraction nor the competitive nature of their relationship that the script is harping about.
Kidman fares better with the sweet mentoring relationship Ball has with a writer played by Alia Shawkat. Acknowledging that even though they are from different generations and have different takes on how to use their voices as women in the workplace, they got each other’s back. Maybe more of that Sorkin.
The script is uneven and broad. This could be any workplace in the 1950s. None of the dilemmas and interactions are specific enough despite the constant name dropping. Sorkin’s dialogue cadence is also played out at this point. Why do Lucille Ball, Steve Jobs and the fictional denizens of The West Wing all speak in the same back and forth repetitive cadence? It makes all of Sorkin’s work sound the same. As a director he brings no panache and no point of view, we never get a sense of the story in the way he frames the actors. It’s just mid shot to close up to wide shot, rinse and repeat. No rhythm or sense of drama. He’s also saddled with shoddy looking CGI on Kidman and Bardem in the flashbacks as the younger Lucy and Desi.
Most unforgivable is the coda that resolves the “red scare” subplot. You may skip this if you do not want to be spoiled. Before the taping the show, Arnaz calls J Edgar Hoover to prove Ball is not a communist and then the studio audience watching literally applauds Hoover. It is such an odd note that I’m still reeling from it. The film is asking us to admire Hoover for coming to Ball’s rescue. But it raises so many questions. Did she actually need to be rescued? From what exactly? How are we supposed to feel by this resolution that implies that HUAC was actually a good thing that happened to Ball when we know – FROM HISTORY – it ruined many lives and McCarthysim became a shorthand for fear, biased accusations and unhinged governmental power. Sorkin, you got some explaining to do.
Being the Ricardos is in theaters this Friday December 10 and on Prime Video December 21.