The ‘Carol’ Miniseries

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It’s April 17th. The unofficial Carol Day. In the film, that is the day Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) reunite. It also happens to be Mara’s birthday—and the date on which the movie’s love scene was filmed.

Why don’t celebrate by listening to our four part miniseries about Cate Balnchett’s  most loved performance in Carol? You can listen right here!

#1 The Love Story with Luke Willis

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.

#2 The Queer Cutural Impact with Shayna Maci Warner

In part two, the topic is the cultural impact the film had on queer people. From memes to comedy routines, Carol was adored.

# 3 Cate is the Top with Maggie Larkin

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.

#4 The Influences and Inspirations with Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

And in the concluding part we discuss the influences and inspirations behind this masterpiece. From those acknowledged by the director Todd Haynes – David Lean’s Brief Encounter – to others we gleaned from watching the film many times – the films of George Cukor, Deborah Kerr in The End of the Affair and Haynes’ own Far From Heaven.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Charlotte Gray’

We are in the final stretch of the podcast series. This week it’s another of Cate Blanchett’s many titular roles and Charlotte Gray (2001). In this episode Murtada discusses Gillian Armstrong’s World War II film, the many loving close ups she affords Balnchett and whether the film works as both a sweeping epic romance and a narrative about life in occupied France during the war.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A young Scottish woman joins the French Resistance during World War II to rescue her Royal Air Force boyfriend who is lost in France.

What year did it come out?

2001.

Box Office: US= $741,000 Outside US = $4.5MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 48    RT: 33 

Topics Discussed:

  • The top notch crew behind this film. From the director Gillian Armstrong (Oscar and Lucinda) to the cinematographer Dion Bebe (Memoirs of a Geisha) and custom designer Janty Yates (House of Gucci).
  • The many loving and gorgeous closeup Cate Blanchett is afforded in this film.
  • Does the film work as a sweeping epic romance as well as a narrative about life in occupied France during World War II? Two scenes are dissected .
  • Charlotte Gray announces early in the film, “I want to be brave.” Does the film deliver on that declaration?
Billy Crudup and Cate Blanchett in Charlotte Gray

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Pushing Tin’

This week we go back to almost the beginning of Cate Blanchett’s illustrious career with Pushing Tin (1999). To discuss Mike Newell’s film and the performances of Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, Murtada welcomes to the podcast Mitchell Beaupre, senior editor at Letterboxd.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB:  A feud develops between two air traffic controllers: one cocky and determined while the other is restrained and laidback, which inevitably affects their lives.

Who does Cate play?

Connie Falzone, the New Jersey wife of an air traffic controller whos feuding with a co-worker.

What year did it come out?

1999.

Box Office: US= $8.4 MM Outside US = unavailable

Critical Response: Metacritic : 47    RT: 48 

Topics Discussed:

  • This cast! Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. Where they were in 1999 and where they are now.
  • The Blanchett look – the fringe, the earrings, the makeup – very Jersey.
  • Unforgivable that they had Blanchett and Jolie and did not give them at least one meaty scene together. Their only interaction is a brief one with the other “wives.”
  • Mike Newell from Four Weddings (19944) to Donnie Brasco (1997) to this. He was on a roll. Was this the film that derailed him? His follow-ups are all flops – Mona Lisa Smile (2203), Love in the Time of Cholera (2007) and Prince of Persia (2010).
  • Sometimes plays like an anthropological look at a certain frat bro culture. The one upmanship, the competitiveness, the explanation of what ”being a man” is, 
  • He said attractive?” – Cate’s best moment.
  • Pre 9/11 – so much shenanigans that would never happen around planes these days.
  • The “big gesture” ending, perhaps of that “boombox serenade” from Say Anything (1989).
  • When Bily Bob abd Angelina kiss with everyone’s mouths agape – the same reaction of the whole world to their antics at that time “we fucked in the car.”

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Babel’

This week we tackle one of Cate Blanchett’s weirdest roles, that of an injured American tourist traveling in Morocco in Babel (2006). To discuss Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film and Blanchett’s penchant to sometimes take on small supporting parts, Murtada welcomes to the podcast Zita Short, critic for InSession Film and Jumpcut Online and host of The 300 Passions Podcast.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB:  Tragedy strikes a married couple on vacation in the Moroccan desert, touching off an interlocking story involving four different families.

Who does Cate play?

Susan Jones, an American tourist who gets injured during a trip to Morocco. 

What year did it come out?

2006

Box Office: US= $34MM Outside US = $101MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 69    RT: 69 

Cate Blanchett with Brad Pitt on the set of Babel

Topics Discussed:

  • The films of Alejandro González Iñárritu which include Amores Perros, Biutiful, 21 Grams, Birdman and The Revenant.
  • Cate and Brad Pitt – made two films together in quick succession. See also The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). What do we think of them as a screen couple? 
  • The theme of globalization – how people are treated in  “foreign lands,” the Americans in Morocco vs. the Mexicans in the US.
  • Linking the separate stories together by the end is something Iñárritu  loves to do. See also Amores Perros. It feels slightly overengineered.
  • Weird role for Cate; she spends almost the entire movie on the floor of a hut in Morocco.
  • Babel was an Oscar success with nominations for best film and best director (the year The Departed and Martin Scorses won). Also nominated were the performances from Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi.
  • Are Cate and Brad playing “ugly Americans” abroad? The film does not shy away from presenting them as entitled despite the circumstances that they are in.
  • Lots of familiar faces in the cast. Harriett Walter, young Elle Fanning, Clifton Collins Jr and Michael Pena. Kōji Yakusho from Koreda’s The Third Murder.
  • Babel vs. Crash –  many reviews made the comparison perhaps because of the multiple story lines. Babel is weirder, less sentimental.
Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt in a scene from Babel

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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‘Carol’ Part Four: The Influences and Inspirations

We conclude our Carol miniseries with a discussion about the influences and inspirations behind the 2015 film masterpiece. From those acknowledged by the director Todd Haynes – David Lean’s Brief Encounter – to others we gleaned from watching the film many times – the films of George Cukor, Deborah Kerr in The End of the Affair and Haynes’ own Far From Heaven. For this conversation Murtada welcomes back Izzy from Be Kind Rewind to discuss these topics and how forming a relationship with a film changes the way you view over time.

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The film is available on vudu.

Topics Discussed:

  • Why does Carol resonate and has such cultural capital six years into its life. True or are we just living in a Carol bubble?
  • Todd Haynes’ women; their internal lives brought to splendid vivid life. This time we get two. Compare Carol and Therese to Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven and the other Carol in Safe.
  • Haynes insists that Carol and Far From Heaven are not similar despite taking place in the same time period. He maintains Carol is more realistic, a love story and not a melodrama though he also says “naturalism is artificial. It’s all artificial.” 
  • Haynes mentions David Lean and Brief Encounter as a direct inspiration for the epilogue and coda of Carol. Other Lean romances include Summertime and Doctor Zhivago
  • Because of the period setting this performance was compared to those from the golden age of hollywood. We talk about Deborah Kerr in The End of the Affair and Greta Garbo’s Romance.
  • Cate’s look, blond hair, red lipstick against the period exquisite cinematography. She has a similar look in Nightmare Alley currently on release. 
  • How with repeated viewing the film becomes funny without losing its emotional impact.

Previous Episodes in the Carol MiniSeries:

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Bonus Podcast: Oscar Nominations Reaction

In this bonus episode we are discussing the 2022 Oscar Nominations. Our take on the acting categories and best picture. The discussion touches on the performances of Kristen Stewart, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Andrew Garfield and Denzel Washington. We lament the exclusion of Ruth Negga and raise a glass to Lady Gaga’s fun and fascinating press tour for House of Gucci. For this conversation Murtada welcomes back Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

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Other movies discussed include West Side Story, The Power of the Dog and Parallel Mothers and of course the two Cate Blanchett movies that were nominated for best picture Don’t Look Up, and Nightmare Alley.

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Bonus Podcast: The Buzz on Sundance Movies

In this bonus episode we are discussing the many films we screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. For this conversation Murtada welcomes Li Lai, founder and editor in chief of Mediaversity Reviews to discuss a few films including Bill Nighy in Living, Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and two films for both Dakota Johnson (AmI OK? and Cha Cha Real Smooth) and Regina Hall (Master and Honk for Jesus Save Your Soul).

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Other movies discussed include Rebecca Hall in Resurection, Fire of Love, Palm Trees and Power Lines, Nanny, After Yang, Call Jane, Free Chol Soo Lee, and Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power. We also discuss whether the selection reflected a diversity of voices.

For more context check out Murtada’s letterboxed list.

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‘Carol’ Part Three: The Perfect Actress for the Role

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.

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The film is available on vudu.

Topics Discussed:

  •  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?

Previous Episodes in the Carol MiniSeries:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Veronica Guerin’

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.

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What is the film about?

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

Ciaran Hinds and Cate Blanchett in Veronica Guerin

Topics Discussed:

  • 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).
  • Brief interlude about Cate’s performances in The Man Who Cried, The Aviator and Blue Jasmine.
  • 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). 
  • Brief mentions of Cate’s two films out now in release; Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up.
  • 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.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  • 2003 was a busy year for Blanchett, see also The Missing, Coffee and Cigarettes and her 3rd time as Galadriel in LOTR:The Return of the King.
  • 2003 was the last year of her wilderness era post Elizabeth (1998) when her movies didn’t seem to connect. The year after she appears in The Aviator and for the next 4 years she’ll have a great run.  

Further Reading:

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