Cate Blanchett in ‘An Ideal Husband’

Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore, two actresses linked in our minds as the muses of Todd Haynes, have only shared scenes on screen in 1999’s An Ideal Husband. For this episode Murtada welcomes back Chris Feil, host of This Had Oscar Buzz podcast, to discuss the film, whether it retains the wit of its author Oscar Wilde and the performances of Cate, Julianne, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett and Jeremy Northam.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: London 1895: Cabinet minister, Sir Chiltern, and bachelor, Lord Goring, are victims of scheming women. LOL imdb.

Based on the play by Oscar Wilde, adpted and directed by Oliver Parker. Starring Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett and Jeremy Northam.

When did it come out?

June 1999.

Who does Cate play?

Lady Chiltren, an uncompromising woman married and in love with the ideal husband (or one of them).

Reception:

Box Office: Domestic = $18,542,974 Int’l = unavailable 

Metacritic: 67 RT: 85

Blanchett and Moore in An Ideal Husband

Topics discussed:

  • Does the film succeed in preserving Oscar Wilde’s wit from the stage play?
  • Mostly a fun watch because of the actors. 
  • Writer and director Parker re-worked Oscar Wilde’s play by cutting Mrs Chevely’s (Moore) part and beefing up Mabel (Driver).
  • Cate is an uncompromising good person while Julianne plays the mischievous meddler. They are in direct opposition to each other. Their scene together is a highligh and makes great use of pronouncing the word “detest”.
Rupert Everett with Blanchett in An Ideal Husband
  • Similar to The Talented Mr. Ripley, this film cast 5 actors showing lots of promise or just after their big break. Looking back it’s interesting to see what happened to their careers since. First lead for Everett post My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Driver post Oscar nom for Good Will Hunting (1997), Moore post Boogie Nights (1997), Jeremy Northam post Emma (1996) and Cate post Elizabeth (1998). Which begs the question; where is Jeremy Northam now?
  • Cate plays someone who is completely and utterly in love with Northam that she made me re-examine my feelings about him. Why was he the only one of the 5 not to make the poster?
  • Lindsay Duncan’s brief but delicious turn as Lady Markby, Mrs. Chevely’s hype machine.
  • Could it have been on this set that someone said to Cate, “I’m the star of this film, not you,” an anecdote she shared last year? We speculate with no evidence.
  • This is a podcast that celebrates actresses so this time we celebrate Julianne Moore; Chris’ favourite actor.
Northam and Blanchett in An Ideal Husband

Wilde Witticisms:

  • “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”
  • “When one pays a visit, it is for the purpose of wasting other people’s time and not one’s own”
  • “It is not the perfect, but rather the imperfect who have need of love”

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  The first film released post Cate’s first Oscar nomination for Elizabeth (1998).
Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1999

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

Festivals: Closing film of the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. 

Awards: Golden Globe nominee best actor (Rupert Everett) and best actress (Julianne Moore). Bafta nominee for Adapted Screenplay, Costumes and Makeup.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Thank God He Met Lizzie’

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

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What is the film about?

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

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

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

What year did it come out? 1997.

Topics discussed:

  • Where does Thank God he Met Lizzie fit into the wedding movie genre?
  • Cate Blanchett in romantic comedies; how does she fare and should she make more of them? Bandits was previously discussed.
  • Cate and Richard Roxburgh, a long professional partnership in the theater. How do they fare on film?
  • Cate’s performance is reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn’s screen persona as described by critic Molly Haskell in her book From Reverence to Rape. Of course Cate played hepburn in The Aviator.
  • You may also support the show if you liked this episode. Every penny helps us maintain and keep doing these.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’

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

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What is the film about?

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

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

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

What year did it come out? 2003

Critical Response: Metacritic : 65 RT: 64%

Topics discussed:

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

What reviews said of film / Cate:

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

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

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When Carey Mulligan was compared to Audrey Hepburn

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

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Special Episode: Carey Mulligan

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

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Topics Discussed:

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

Shame (2011):

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

Wildlife (2018):

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

Further Reading:

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2021 Oscars Best Actress

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

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Cate Blanchett in “Bandits’

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

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Follow along, Bandits is available on HBO Max.

What is the film about?

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

When did it come out?

October 12, 2001.

Who does Cate play?

Kate Wheeler, a bored depressed housewife looking for adventure.

How is Cate introduced?

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

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

Critical Response: Metacritic : 60 RT: 64

Topics discussed:

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

Memorable quotes:

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

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

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

Blanchett, Troy Garity and Bruce Willis in Bandits

What reviews said of film / Cate:

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

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

Films with context of Cate’s career:

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

Cate Blanchett with Helen Mirren at the NBR in January 2002

Awards:

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

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

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

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

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

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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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