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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Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench in ‘Notes on a Scandal’

A scandalous affair with an underage boy is the entry into this melodrama about the friendship between two teachers in North London. Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Teo Bugbee to discuss the juicy and delicious Notes on a Scandal, its lineage to hagsploitation flicks like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the trope of the predatory lesbian, and why this film remains highly rewatchable.

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Follow along, stream the film on Amazon prime.

What is the film about?

From imdb: A veteran high school teacher befriends a younger art teacher, who is having an affair with one of her fifteen-year-old students. However, her intentions with this new “friend” also go well beyond a platonic friendship. Adapted by Patrick Marber from Zoe heller’s novel, directed by Richard Eyre.

What year did it come out?

2006 

Who does Cate play?

Sheba Hart – a “bourgeoisie bohemia” teacher who embarks on a friendship with a fellow teacher and a disastrous affair with a student.

How is Cate introduced?

3 minutes in. The outsider coming in as the new art teacher in school, a “hard to read wispy novice.” Flustered and a bit late. 

Box Office: Domestic = $17.5MM, Int’l = $32.3MM.

Metacritic: 73 RT:  87

Blanchett and Dench deliciously going toe to toe in Notes on a Scandal

Topics Discussed::

  • Judi’s voice over is delicious, cuts like a sharp knife. I want to quote ALL of it. A gold star performance.
  • Sheba is unlike the characters that Cate usually plays. Many of those are “exceptional” people, Sheba is messy and foolish. The vagueness in the performance fits the character, she’d even described as someone without substance “a sort of absent person.”
  •  The trope of the repressed predatory lesbian – does the film interogate it? And the differing reactions to it from the hosts; a gay man and a lesbian.
  • There a mineage to the the tradition of hagsploitation pictures like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • Barbara Covett vs. Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr. Ripley. Why we identify with one as queer people and not the other?
  • We dissect three scenes:
    1. The main confrontation later in the film “Do you want to fuck me Barbara?” – so many delicious lines as they go toe to toe. A scene I rewatch a lot. 
    2. By the car when Barbara’s cat dies. 
    3. The lunch visit which sets up the class conflict that the film is trying to depict, also sets up the vast difference between how Barbara (makes an effort, gets dressed up) and Sheba (no effort at all, casual, doesn’t think about it) see their friendship.
  • Other scenes discussed:
  1. ”Dordogne” post the big confrontation.
  2. Bill Nighy wonderful when asking Sheba why she didn’t ask him for help after the affair’s reveal.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Released the same year as The Good German and Babel

Awards:  Cate was nominated for Oscar, Golden Globes, and SAG losing to Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. So was Judi + Bafta losing to Helen Mirren in The Queen. The Oscars also nominated Patrick Marber’s script and Philip Glass’ score. 

Press:

New Yorker profile by John Lahr includes this two anecdotes about the making of Notes:

“In a pre production discussion for last year’s “Notes on a Scandal,” Richard Eyre says he got off to “a slightly sticky start with Cate.” He told me, “She’d had one session with a dialect coach, and was she going to have another? I was worried about whether she’d be class-specific. Her character is kind of upper-middle bohemian. I wanted the distinction between her and Judi Dench’s character, who is petit bourgeois, to be clear.” Eyre continued, “I think she thought I was over concerned with the externals instead of the psychology.” “He was really worried about the issue of class,” Blanchett explained. “ ‘Richard,’ I said, ‘I need to work on it because I’m not a mimic. I need to sit down and work on it.’ So the accent became an issue, when I didn’t want to focus on the accent but on the meat of things.” No sooner were Eyre’s words out of his mouth than he realized that he’d made a mistake. “I was sitting in my kitchen and talking. She said, ‘Don’t you think I can do this?’ ‘ Eyre said. “She was upset. I must have been eroding her self-confidence. I felt as bad as I’ve ever felt. I apologized. She didn’t extract revenge.”

Marber recalls, “I put this line in it, ‘Where did you get my hair? Did you pluck it from the bath with some special fucking tweezers?’ She said, ‘I don’t want to say that line. It’s too funny. It will corrupt the tone of where Sheba’s at.’ We hammer-and-tonged it for about ten minutes. Eventually, I said, ‘Oh, please, just please.’ I think she felt compelled to concede to the writer, even if he was a bloody idiot. I think that’s because she’s come from the theatre.”

Blanchett / Dench lovefest in pictures:

Dench and Blanchett on set
Blanchett and Dench at the ‘Women in Hollywood’ event October 2006

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Sundance 2021 Wrap Up

In lieu of a regular episode this week we are discussing the many films we screened at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Murtada Elfadl welcomes back writer and critic Valerie Complex to discuss a few films including Rebecca Hall’s Passing, Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah and Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee, among many others. We also give out our awards for best perfromances and choose the one film you can’t miss at the festival.

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Topics Discussed:

  • Excellent virtual experience; Sundance presented the best experience of all festivals.
  • Documentaries are more innovative than narrative films at the festival.
  • Some docs discussed include Captains of Zaatari, Summer Of Soul, Misha and the Wolves and our favorite Flee.
  • We give out our own acting awards to Clifton Collins Jr. in Jockey, Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah and Ruth Negga in Passing.
  • Further discussion of Passing and its queer subtext.
  • Sundance awards winner Coda; why it won and did it deserve all these awards?
  • Movies that surprised us including Violation and Pleasure.

Further Reading:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Missing’

Cate Blanchett: Medicine Woman. She’s a healer in 1880s New Mexico in Ron Howard’s Western The Missing (2003). We discuss the film, the performances of Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones and Evan Rachel Wood. Plus we look into Howard’s filmography including his latest Hillbilly Elegy (2020), while admitting that we can’t find clues there to what he’s obssessed with as a filmmaker. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes back writer and critic Andrew Kendall, some of Andrew’s film writing can be found here.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: In 1885 New Mexico, a frontier medicine woman forms an uneasy alliance with her estranged father when her daughter is kidnapped by an Apache brujo. Shades of The Searchers (1956). Also starring Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd and Aaron Eckhart.

What year did it come out?

November 2003

Who does Cate play?

Magdalena (Maggie) Gilkeson, a healer in the 1880s American west who has a complicated relationship with her father. It’s Dr. Blanchett, Medicine Woman. 

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately sitting in the commode. So Frances McDormand in Nomadland (2020) was not the first current star to be shown defecating in her movie.

Reception:

Box Office: Domestic = $27M Int’l = $11. Metacritic : 55. RT: 58.

Topics discussed: The Missing

  • Blanchett and Jones are matched well as two idiosyncratic people. There’s a symbiosis to their performances as stubborn loners; believable as father and daughter.
  • The film is well shot, well acted with an interesting story… why doesn’t it work? Competent though there’s nothing special about it – does that make the quintessential Ron Howard movie?
  • Too many rescue missions, gunfights…it becomes tedious… action not exciting.
  • Evan Rachel Wood as a truly stupid colonizer and Elisabeth Moss in a tiny part.
  • Aaron Eckhart supporting Oscar winning women; see also Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (2000) and Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole (2010). Prefer that to his current iteration as a sometimes action star (the …Has Fallen movies).

Topics Discussed: Ron Howard

  • What do we think of his filmography? What kind of director is he – beyond a competent studio filmmaker? His filmography offers scant detail to what he’s obsessed with.
  • This was his follow to the Oscar winning success of A Beautiful Mind (2001) and the mega box office of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) i.e. he could do what he wanted and he chose this.
  • Murtada chooses Apollo 13 (1995) as his best movie, Andrew favors Parenthood (1989)- do they recall any of his other films? What made that successful?
  • Thoughts on latest, Hillbilly Elegy.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Came out at the tail end of the years where she was experimenting with different genres (discussed previously The Gift, The Man Who Cried) and different directors without lasting impact. The Aviator comes a year later and starts a few years of an amazing run till 2008 when she leaves film to run the Sydney Theater Company. 

What reviews said of film / Cate:

As for Blanchett, she’s simply wonderful. She has played her share of queenly figures, but her acting essence is, emotionally speaking, plain-Jane. She’s a straight shooter, with an uncanny ability to find a character’s spine and communicate it without fuss or feathers.”- Richard Schickel, Time.

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‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’

Well the time has come. This week we have a hurricane in us and we are going to command the wind. It’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), the movie that contains that most famous monologue in Cate Blanchett’s filmography. We discuss the film, that iconic scene and delve into that year’s best actress Oscar competition. Plus we nominate younger actors whose screen work remind us of Blanchett. For this conversation, Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

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Follow along the film is available on Amazon prime.

What is the film about?

From imdb: “A mature Queen Elizabeth endures multiple crises late in her reign including court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada, and romantic disappointments.” Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, and in a tiny part as an assassin Eddie Redmayne (in 2015 Blanchett presents Redmayne with his Oscar). 

What year did it come out?

2007.

Who does Cate play?

Duh – top billed.  

Reception:

Box Office: Domestic = $16MM, Int’l = $59MM.

Metacritic: 45 RT: 34, definitely not a stellar reception.

Topics Discussed:

  • Starts in1585 and charts the latter years of Elizabeth I reign. Still plays with marriage as one of the main plots. As with the previous film, it takes the broad strokes of history to tell its story. There’s scant historical accuracy.
  • Love when Cate is at the center of the filmIn this film she either is at the center or the scene is about talking about her.
  • Unlike the first movie, she brings humor to this performance. Sometimes commenting n the script’s simplistic notions of female power – like when she repeats the line ”men have needs.”
  • What is the thesis of this film? It tries to say something about the loneliness of power, about aging… but what exactly? It’s all muddled.
  • Unlike the first film Elizabeth (1998), which was celebrated for its visceral athletic, this one was dismissed as another middling costume drama.
  • Works best as a series of scenes that are entertaining… and not always for reasons that the creaters intended. 
  • Fertile ground for upcoming talent. Eddie Redmayne, Abbie Cornish .. like Kelly McDonald and Emily Mortimer in the first film.
  • Elizabeth literally imagines Bess as her young self. Did they get the casting right? Who of the younger actors remind us of Blanchett?
  • Did Elizabeth believe in astrology? 
  • The “I have a hurricane in me” starts at 38. We discuss why this scene ebdures.
  • Other scenes to discuss:
    1. The speech at Tilbury before going off to fight the Spanish armada.
    2. Flirting with Clive Owen.
    3. Dismissing the attentions of the Austrian duke… back to my note above about bringing humor to the performance.
  • Reprising a signature role is not always successful. See Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983) / The Evening Star (1996). Though it worked for Paul Newman in The Hustler (1961) / The Color of Money (1986). Other examples include Peter O’Toole as another monarch in Beckett (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968).

Costumes we loved:

Looks amazing in cream white in the assasination scene. Intricate eye catching design of most of Elizabeth’s costumes. Though I found many comments in my research that they were not historically accurate. Doesn’t matter, they were noticeable. 

The film must’ve won the Oscar because of the 360 shot of Elizabet’s costume after she wins the war.It’s main competition was Atonement which everybody expected to win because of Keira Knightley’s iconic green dress.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Released the same year as I’m Not There; she got a lot of notices about her range, “she can play both Elizabeth and Bob Dylan,” which added to her allure as the “best of her generation.”

Awards:  Won Oscar for costume design, nominated for best actress at all the usual awards ceremonies. For such a critically derided film, Blanchett didn’t miss out on any nomination.

Other best actress nominees:

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose – the winner.  

Julie Christie, Away from Her. 

Elliott Page, Juno.

Laura Linney, The Savages – surprise nominee.

Missing out – Angelina Jolie A Mighty Heart, Keira Knightley Atonement, Amy Adams Enchanted, Tang Wei Lust and Caution.

Cate gave us two priceless reaction shots while best actress was presented at the Oscars:

1) revulsion at her “command the wind” clip, and 2) elation at Cotillard’s win.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Man Who Cried’

Glamour! Big Acting ! An Accent! A few hallmarks of Cate Blanchett’s performances that we love are present in Sally Potter’s The Man Who Cried (2001). It’s a commanding star turn that shows Blanchett at her best, and for that the movie is a must-see for every Blanchett fan. We discuss the film and performance. Plus revisit Mrs. America and the show’s chances at the winter TV awards (Golden Globes and SAG).

Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience.

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What is the film about?

From Wikipedia: A Russian Jewish girl (Christina Ricci) is separated from her father in 1927 and escapes to England, where she’s rechristened Suzie. She grows up to be a singer in a Parisian theater populated by a glamorous Russian dancer (Cate Blanchett), an egotistical Italian tenor (John Turturro) and a handsome horseman (Johnny Depp). When the Nazis invade France, however, Suzie’s life is suddenly in danger, and she attempts to flee to the United States, where her father moved years earlier.

Who does Cate play?

Lola, a glamorous Russian dancer.

How is Cate introduced?

20 minutes in as the star attraction amidst a chorus of dancers. after she finishes the dance, she winks directly at the camera and the audience.

What year did it come out?

 Premiered at Venice September 2000. US release May 2001.

Box Office: Domestic = $747K Int’l = $575K

Critical Response: Metacritic : 40 RT: 35

Topics Discussed: The Man Who Cried

  • This movie hardly made a ripple in 2001. It is one of the very few Cate performances that I have never watched until now. Very hard to find…. youtube is your friend (wink).
  • Sally Potter as a distinctly visual filmmaker.
  • One of Cate’s early roles. Does the star quality appear? Of course, in fact this is a must-see for any Cate Blanchett fan because it shows her total command and allure as a screen star.
  • NBR awarded Cate best supporting actress for 2001 body of work including this, LOTR and The Shipping News
  • Again a very physical full bodied performance – a theme we’ve talked about on this podcast. There’s a nervous energy to it though. Lola is always moving, gawky, not graceful like some of her other characterizations.
  • Memorable look; albaster skin, red cherry lipstick, very blond hair – so very noticeable
  • Cate the droll comedian, we dig deep into one scene; when telling the rules of seducing men… “without my looks I wouldn’t have gotten out of Russia.”
  • Lola is a tragic figure . We talk about how Cate makes her so with emphasis on a couple of other scenes.
  • One of a few movies that Christina Ricci headlined – what do we think of her?
  • What’s with all the brooding Johnny Depp on horseback scenes – for a while both he and Ricci are silent in their scenes together.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

2000 – 2001 was the time when the choices she made post her breakout with Elizabeth began appearing for audiences. She chose a few supporting roles; all of them very far from that monarch and one lead role in The Gift (2000); previously discussed.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Blanchett’s role is the dazzler: Rolling her eyes, shrugging her shoulders and flinging her long limbs about insouciantly, she’s the soul of studiously artificial glamour, whether shimmying in a trashy revue or bewitching an unwary suitor.” – Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide.

“The movie is like a series of climactic moments from a World War II mini-series strung together without the undercurrents that might build character: it’s all big moments, the world’s longest and most sincere trailer. In fact, the title character doesn’t even appear until the end of the picture. (Before that the film should be called ”The Woman Who Cries,” since Ms. Ricci’s trembling chin gets quite a workout.)

With accents heavier than the melodrama going on around them, Ms. Blanchett and Mr. Turturro add comic weight and warmth as two predators sizing each other up before they realize they’re the same species.” – A O Scott, NYTimes.

“Ironically, in the midst of all this high caloric camp, the one performer who escapes with her dignity, Cate Blanchett, does so not by underacting but by getting in full shameless touch with her miscast inner ham. As Lola, a transplanted Moscow gold-digger with a borscht thick accent and lips as glossy red as the inside of a chocolate covered cherry, Blanchett is like Mata Hari played by Gwen Stefani impersonating Veronica Lake. It’s hard to take your eyes off of acting this knowingly overripe.”Owen Gleiberman, EW

Topics Discussed: Mrs. America & miscellaneous

  • Last time we talked Mrs. America was about to be released – our thoughts on the series.
  • Cate’s performance on the show is a major career highlight. Check out our recaps of the show.
  • Awards chances for Cate and the show at the upcoming winter awards (Glden Globes and SAG).
  • Looking forward to Nightmare Alley and her collaboration with Guillermo Del Toro and Bradley Cooper.

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The Lord of the Rings

This week we discuss Galadriel, Cate Blanchett’s most iconic role. We delve into the enduring populariy of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and what diffrentiates them as excellent action adventure films, what makes Galadriel so special within Blanchett’s filmography and even ask Peter Jackson for a Boromir / Aragon rom-com. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes filmmaker Conrado Falco, co-creator of the show Wormholes and host of The Criterion Project podcast.

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Follow along the trilogy is streamig on HBO Max.

What is the film about?

 Based on J R R Tolkien’s trilogy about hobbits, elves and that one ring. In this episode we maninly discuss the first film; The Fellowship of the Ring.

From imdb: “A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

Who does Cate play?

Galadriel, queen of the Elves with her pointed ears.

How is Cate introduced?

Almost immediately in voice over narrating the prologue that explains the creation of the One Ring. Her voice starts it all. Then she appears in all her blond ethereal beauty.

What year did it come out?

2001 the sequels in 2002 and 2003. The Hobbit movies came out in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Box Office: Domestic = $315 MM Int’l = $888MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 92 RT: 91

Topics Discussed:

  • Why were these films so popular?
  • Why Galadriel became one of Blanchett’s most iconic roles. The look, the character and her performance.
  • Well made adventure film especially when compared with mediocre output of current superhero movies. Grand old fashioned entertainment. Why does the adventure and the scale work well?
  • Earnestness done well. How these films wonderfully portray friendship.
  • Ian McKellen’s wonderful and equally iconic performance as Gandalf. How/ why he lost the Oscar?
  • Homoeroticism between Aragon and Boromir. Their relationship has the beats of a rom-com.
  • The many endings of The Return of the King. Despite their abundance they are a nice hang, as if visiting old friends one last time.
  • The metaphor of the ring – what does it mean or stand for? It could mean differnt things depending on interpretation.
  • Cate’s friendship with Ian Mckellen.
  • Deep dive into the “all shall love me and despair‘ scene.
  • Frodo as the ultimate “damsel in distress.”
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Ian McKellen as Gandalf

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Her biggest hit and impact on popular culture. Many remember her as Galdriel. Playing this ethereal icon fed into her own iconic status as a movie star. 

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Cinderella’

It’s time for another delicious villian from Cate Blanchett. The Wicked Stepmother in ‘Cinderella,’ the 2015 live action Disney remake, directed by Kenneth Branagh. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes writer and podcaster Manish Mathur, host of It Pod To You and Queer and Now podcasts.

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What is the film about?

From Wikipedia: After her father unexpectedly dies, young Ella (Lily James) finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and stepsisters, who reduce her to scullery maid. Despite her circumstances, she refuses to despair. An invitation to a palace ball gives Ella hope that she might reunite with the dashing stranger (Richard Madden) she met in the woods, but her stepmother prevents her from going. Help arrives in the form of a kindly beggar woman who has a magic touch for ordinary things.

Who does Cate play?

The Wicked Stepmother, Lady Tremaine.

How is Cate introduced?

 9 minutes in – Lucifer the cat on a leach, “how charming how perfectly charming.”

What year did it come out?

2015 / it was her follow up to Blue Jasmine. Premiered at the berlin film festival

Box Office: Domestic = $9.1MM Int’l = $1.8MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 67  RT: 83

Topics discussed:

  • Cate gives psychological depth to a usually cartoonish villain – but also hits the high comic notes.
  • Cate talked of being having thought of Joan Crawford and that’s certainly apparent in the hair / costumes and performance 
  • “Have courage and be kind.” It’s hard to play good and kind, but Lily James manages it “they treat me as well as they are able.”
  • The script is fun in dramatizing the story beats we all know, e.g. Cinders being banished to the attic comes as a sweet suggestion to give her bigger room to the step sisters. Or how she meets the prince.
  • The film has a romantic sweep and the visuals look. 
  • Manish’s favorite Cate co-star is Sarah Paulson IRL. Fun conversation about their freindship.
  • The Berlinale premiere and this cute moment:
Cate Blanchett fixing Lily James’ dress at the Cinderella premiere at the Berlinale in February 2015

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“As so often with Disney films, this one is owned by its villain. Cate Blanchett, jaw-dropping in an Easter Parade’s worth of amazing costumes (that 2016 Oscar should just be wrapped up and mailed to Sandy Powell now), is the ace up the film’s fitted satin sleeve. Striking catlike poses and oozing poison when required, she is also given a little humanity, including a surprisingly dorky, vulgar laugh that suggests just how studied and artificial her elegance is. One scene in which she tells her life story like she’s the heroine of a “once upon a time” tale, does in two minutes what “Maleficent” couldn’t do in two hours: it helps us understand her character’s brokenness without declawing her one bit.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist.

Enter Cate Blanchett in a delirious swirl of candy-colored evil. As Ella’s wicked stepmother, Blanchett is nasty perfection from her blood red lips to her baroque Sandy Powell-designed gowns. She’s like a cross between Coco Chanel and Norma Desmond, and she smartly plays her harpiedom to the back row of the theater. The fizzy cocktail combination of Blanchett’s cartoonish hauteur and Branagh’s visual razzle-dazzle and confectionary sets (courtesy of the legendary Dante Ferretti) manages to take a tale as wheezy as Cinderella and make it feel almost magical again.”Chris Nashawaty, EW.

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Kate Winslet in ‘Ammonite’

This week we take a brief detour from the films of Cate Blanchett. Instead we are discussing a current film, out on release now, Ammonite. Plus the career of Kate Winslet  and in the latter part of the podcast we discuss a few other queer films out this season. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest queer writer-performer, producer and filmmaker Ren Jender, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, NPR, Slate, Bandcamp and The Village Voice.

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What is the film about?

From Wikipedia: “Acclaimed paleontologist Mary Anning works alone selling common fossils to tourists to support her ailing mother, but a chance job offer changes her life when a visitor hires her to care for his wife.”

Who are the main characters?

Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) – a real life fossil hunter who is known to have been single, no historic evidence of her being queer which raised mild controversy before the film’s release – though that’s par for course since queer history is never recorded

Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) – also a real life person though reportedly older that Mary in real life, there is evidence that Mary was invited to her London house for a weekend.

Elizabeth Philpot (Fiona Shaw) – Mary’s neighbor and assumed former lover.

Molly Anning (Gemma Jones) – Mary’s mother and live-in companion.

Roderick Murchison (James McArdle)- Charlotte’s clueless husband.

Topics discussed:

  • Why this story now? A continuation of presenting queer woman in mostly historical stories.
  • The chemistry between Winslet and Ronan.
  • The initial marketing made the sex scene the focus – wise decision?
  • Might the film have been more interesting if it was about Mary Anning’s life and work and not this concotted love story.
  • Fiona Shaw’s performance.
  • Comparison to Francis Lee’s previous queer film, God’s Own Country, another queer romance with roots in the lead’s work and their connection to the earth.
  • Austere filmmaking, minimal dialogue, drab costumes and settings -did these choices work?
  • Is the film boring as this humorous article claims?
  • Comparison to Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Rafiki, two other recent films about queer women. Read Ren’s article on both films, and Murtada’s interview with Wanuri Kahiu, the director of Rafiki.
  • Highlights of Winslet’s career: Sense and Sensibility, Jude, Peter Jackson‘s Heavenly Creatures. Her long association with the Oscars, awards narrative and post The Reader shunning.
  • Other queer movies from this season: I Carry You With Me, No Ordinary Man.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette

We kickoff the 3rd season of the podcast with the last film we saw in theaters for Cate Blanchett. Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes the hosts of the The B Side podcast, Dan Mecca and Connor O’ Donnell.

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Follow along the film is streaming on Hulu.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: A loving mom becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. Her leap of faith takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery.

Based on the novel by Maria Semple, a former TV writer who worked on such shows as Suddenly Susan, Mad About You, and Arrested Development.  

Who does Cate play?

Bernadette Fox – one of many titular characters Cate has played.Charlotte Gray, Veronica Guerin, Blue Jasmine, Carol

What year did it come out?

2019 – delayed more than a year.

Box Office: Domestic = $9.1MM Int’l = $1.8MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 51  RT: 49

Topics discussed:

  • Bernadette is a genius who suffered a major career setback. Can she recover? That’s the movie’s premise. 
  • The film is effective in building the marriage story and the mother daughter relationship but the social satire from maria Semple’s book is lost. 
  • A highlight scene singing Time After Time, Cate undercuts by tearing up “I retain the right to being moved by those little things no one notices”
  • Was Richard Linklater miscast? The book is a social satire and that gets lost in this adaptation. 
  • The woes of this adaptation  as detailed in a Vulture article. There was a script written by Michael H Weber and  Scott Neustadler who wrote 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now but jettisoned by Linklater who brought in his own collaborators.
  • Blanchett as a physical comedian when “talking” with Bernadette’s virtual assistant Manjula.

Murtada’s review of the film published upon release in August 2019:

Blanchett remains best when playing unravelling women, however this is not a companion performance to her signature Oscar winning role in Blue Jasmine (2013) but rather I found myself thinking of another of her creations. The bored housewife who chooses to be kidnapped by bank robbers rather than continue filling her days with housework, in Bandits (2001). Bernadette is just as trapped as Kate Wheeler was and Blanchett manages to imbue her with the right chaotic temperenant to convey a woman confined by psychological trappings she can’t begin to face, let alone conquer. She’s always been a master of gestural acting and here she plays up her facial expressions and gives her body movement a fussy restless energy to show us how Bernadette is longing for more.”

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