‘Blue Jasmine’ Part 3 – Jasmine and Her Sisters

In the 3rd and final part of the Blue Jasmine miniseries, we discuss Jasmine and her sisters. Annie Hall, Helen St Clair in Bullets Over Broadway, Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo, among others. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with returning guest journalist and theater critic Jose Solís, host of Token Theater Friends podcast.

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Follow along, the film is streaming at Amazon.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…

What year did it come out?

July 2013

Who does Cate play?

Jasmine of course. One of her many titular characters.

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately and memorably. Jabbering away about her life and marriage to a stranger on a plane, sets the tone for how unstable the character is. 

Box Office:        Domestic = $33MM                Int’l = $66MM

Metacritic : 78          RT: 91

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How often do you quote Blue Jasmine IRL?

Topics discussed:

  • Woody Allen is a well known terrible person. Though the films are great and influential. Art vs. Artist. How do you reconcile your feelings about him and his art that we have loved for many years?
  • Blue Jasmine is a performance driven film. Blanchett just holds the screen. What other examples of this are in Allen’s canon?
  • Annie Hall (1977) – unique character inspired by the actress playing her, Diane Keaton.
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1994)- comedy genius performance from Dianne Weist.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) – another comic “genius” in Penelope Cruz.
  • Interiors (1978) – is it the closest to Jasmine of Woody’s women? Certainly the tragic ends of both Eve and Jasmine are similar. 
  • Or is it Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives (1992), an actress who’s closest in temperament to Blanchett?
  • Mia Farrow’s sublime performance in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985).
  • Emma Stone as the Woody stand-in Irrational Man (2015).
  • Allen’s reputation for many years as “women’s writer director” can’t be denied despite some misogynistic roles e.g Hemingway in Manhattan
  • The work of the costume designer and the makeup artist in helping Cate craft this performance
  • Charting the effects of the economic crisis on one person.
  • This is a lauded performance with critics, awards bodies and audiences – where does this stand among the best performances of the 2010s?
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Peter Sarsgaard, Blanchett, Michael Stuhlbarg and Alec Baldwin at the New York premiere July 2013

References:

“I think Woody Allen is a criminal, but I still think about (& might watch) his old films. I think The Cosby Show should still be aired.” Emily Nussbaum to Terry Gross on NPR.

Promotional Work:

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‘Blue Jasmine’ Part 2 – The Streetcar Allusions

In part 2 of the Blue Jasmine miniseries, we discuss the similarities with Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the character of Blanche Dubois, clearly is the blueprint for Jasmine. The many actresses who played Blanche or were inspired by her from the women in Pedro Almodovar’s movies to Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence to most recently Carey Mulligan in Wildlife.  Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest TV and Film Journalist Candice Frederick.

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Follow along, the film is streaming at Amazon.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…

What year did it come out?

July 2013

Who does Cate play?

Jasmine of course. One of her many titular characters.

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately and memorably. Jabbering away about her life and marriage to a stranger on a plane, sets the tone for how unstable the character is. 

Box Office: Domestic = $33MM         Int’l = $66MM

Metacritic : 78         RT: 91 

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We explore the relationship between the sisters in this episode

Topics discussed:

  • Blue Jasmine as a riff on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Woody Allen denied the connection, though it’s obvious to anyone who knows the play.
  • The differences between Streetcar and Jasmine:

– No sexual tension between Jasmine / Chilli as there was btw Blanche / Stanley.

– It’s Jasmine’s story, diminished roles for other characters.      

– Modernized Streetcar though themes of class disparity are consistent.

  • Blanche is written and played more vulnerable than Jasmine, though they are both architects of their own destruction.
  •  Cate has played Blanche DuBois in a production directed by Liv Ullman that came to BAM in 2009. 
  • Other actresses who played Blanche (it’s a right of passage) include: Vivien Leigh, Jessica Lange, Rachel Weisz, Gillian Anderson, Nicole Ari Parker.
  • Other performances in the vein of “women unravelling” so many examples from Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence to Carey Mulligan in Wildlife to a whole array of Pedro Almodovar leading ladies particulary in All About My Mother.
  • Blanchett’s performance in relation to the other actors, in particular her chemistry with Sally Hawkins as the “Stella” to her “Blanche”.  
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Blanchett and Hawkins as Blanche/Jasmine and Stella/Ginger

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“This is a film that draws deep from the well of A Streetcar Named Desire. Cate Blanchett, who has played Blanche du Bois onstage, is here cast as an updated version of Tennessee Williams’s anti-heroine, Blanche’s reveries about a faded Southern aristocracy replaced with contemporary delusions bred by life as lived among the 1 percent in Manhattan and the Hamptons. The film begins with Jasmine (née Jeanette) arriving in San Francisco, broke but still flying first class, the dazed victim of a financial scandal involving her former husband. Now homeless, she is forced to rely on the comfort of her estranged sister, Ginger, who is romantically involved with a blue-collar lug named Chili. (Although we see Chili in a wife-beater, he refrains from shouting, Hey, Ginnnnn-gerrrrrr!!!!) Like Streetcar, Blue Jasmine is the story of Jasmine’s further humbling, of upper-class pretension dashing against the rock of working-class earthiness; also like Streetcar, Allen’s work shares its heroine’s snobbery, the director as appalled as Jasmine by Chili’s and Ginger’s gaucheries, their lack of interest in high culture, their aspirational void”Vanity Fair

 

Blanchett, Blanche — the names seem fated for each. Mr. Allen has said that he didn’t see Ms. Blanchett play Tennessee Williams’s most famous creation in Liv Ullmann’s celebrated 2009 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Jasmine’s appalled aside about being forced to move to Brooklyn after being priced out of Manhattan amusingly suggests why he didn’t.) Whatever his inspiration, he has been rummaging around in the classics for decades, so his appropriation of “Streetcar” doesn’t surprise. What does is his reimagining Blanche by way of another figure who changes depending on how you hold her up to the light, Ruth Madoff, the wife of Bernard L. Madoff, the investor turned avatar of a fallen world. It’s a masterly stroke that puts Jasmine’s dissembling into fresh, chilling perspective.

The allusions to “Streetcar” are copious and obvious, and spotting the quotations initially feels like a kind of humorous parlor game, from the French connection that links Blanche and Jasmine’s names to Mr. Allen’s staging of a violent skirmish, which echoes a similar one in Elia Kazan’s film adaptation. Underscoring the resemblances, Jasmine repeatedly explains that “Blue Moon” was playing when she met Hal, memories that evoke the blue piano that, as Williams wrote in “Streetcar,” expresses “the spirit of the life which goes on here.” In the play, Blanche also says that Stanley isn’t the type who goes for jasmine perfume, an aside that carries an accusation.” – Manohla Dargis, NYTimes

ScreenPrism on the similarities between Blue Jasmine and A Streetcar Named Desire.

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Blanchett and Joel Edgerton in Liv Ullman’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire

Reviews of Cate as Blanche on Stage:

“What Ms. Blanchett brings to the character is life itself, a primal survival instinct that keeps her on her feet long after she has been buffeted by blows that would level a heavyweight boxer. Ms. Blanchett’s Blanche is always on the verge of falling apart, yet she keeps summoning the strength to wrestle with a world that insists on pushing her away. Blanche’s burden, in existential terms, becomes ours. And a most particular idiosyncratic creature acquires the universality that is the stuff of tragedy. All the baggage that any “Streetcar” usually travels with has been jettisoned. Ms. Ullmann and Ms. Blanchett have performed the play as if it had never been staged before, with the result that, as a friend of mine put it, “you feel like you’re hearing words you thought you knew pronounced correctly for the first time.” Blessed perhaps with an outsider’s distance on an American cultural monument, Ms. Ullmann and Ms. Blanchett have, first of all, restored Blanche to the center of “Streetcar.” – NYTimes

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‘Blue Jasmine’ Part 1 – Actor as Auteur

In the first of three episodes about Blue Jasmine, we discuss Cate Blanchett as the auteur of the film. Despite not writing or directing it, Blue Jasmine would not be as strong or even the same without her performance. Murtada‘s guest this week is writer and critic Matthew Eng.

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Follow along, the film is streaming at Amazon.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…

When did it come out?

July 2013.

Who does Cate play?

Jasmine of course. One of her many titular characters.

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately and memorably. Jabbering away about her life and marriage to a stranger on a plane, sets the tone for how unstable the character is.

Box Office: Domestic = $33MM         Int’l = $66MM

Metacritic : 78     RT: 91

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The most memorable one liner in Blue Jasmine? Without a doubt.

Topics discussed:

  • The actor as auteur. Despite not writing or directing Blue Jasmine, the film would not be as strong or even the same with the performance.
  • From the beginning we know this is going to be a performance driven film, Blanchett just holds the screen. I knew when she said to the cab driver “Can I have some privacy?” while trembling.
  • To prove our theory that Blanchett is in fact the author of the film; she pointedly thanked the dialect coach in her Oscar acceptance speech for “bringing Sally and I together,” notoriously Allen doesn’t rehearse or give feedback to actors, though he did tell her “you are awful.”
  • The work of the costume designer and the makeup artist in helping Cate craft this performance.
  • Charting what collection of pills and booze Jasmine’s on at all times, and manifesting that in voice, body movement, sweat… the beat before every lie comes out of her mouse.
  • Her performance in relation to the other actors? Blanchett’s always dominant in movies but the nature of this part showcases that more. 
  • The film starts with a mention of “Blue Moon” and ends with it too, how that makes the performance so poignant.
  • Matthew wrote about both Juliette Binoche and Meryl Streep as auteurs of their movies.
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The climax is heartbreaking. We discuss at length.

Famous quotes:

SO MANY. Who gets the credit Allen or Blanchett?

  • “I saw you, Erika.”
  • “What does that stupidity even mean?”
  • “Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.
  • “Tip big, boys!”
  • “Who do you have to sleep with around here to get a Stoli martini with a twist of lemon?”
  • “I haven’t shown my face socially in so long”
  • “New York, Park Avenue”
  • “This was playing on the Vineyard. “Blue Moon”. I used to know the words.”

 Scenes we liked:

  •  Everytime Cate is on screen basically.

What seemed off :

  •  Computer-class subplot – in a lesser actor’s hand the tone deafness of this would be unforgivable. Yet I saw it as another way Jasmine is self-sabotaging.
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Great Performance. Great Win. Great Speech.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Considered the pinnacle of her career, won many awards for it including her 2nd Academy Award. It was a return to movie after a 6 year hiatus running the Sydney Theter Company.

 What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Blanchett’s lavish, almost operatic turn as Jasmine sloshes against the sides of this insubstantial movie like liquid in a too-small container (maybe the room-temperature Stoli Jasmine is continually downing) There are many moments in which, as a viewer, you notice and admire Blanchett’s gestures and inflections, but very few in which you understand her deluded character’s motivations from the inside. She disintegrates beautifully before our eyes, not for any specific set of reasons the film maps, but because that’s what tragic heroines like Blanche DuBois are there to do.” – Dana Stevens, Slate

In Blue Jasmine, Allen is back in full-on sourpuss mode, even as he purports to be providing a grand showcase for Blanchett, the performance was touching in places, but it was also mannered and precise, like an artfully torn piece of silk. Blanchett strikes each note as precisely as if she were hitting the bars on a xylophone, and in this way, she fits into Allen’s schematic perfectly. Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice.

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Jasmine clearly hates everyone around her.

“The movie is almost meant to belong to Blanchett. Allen has set most of the film on her face and within her hopped-up, motormouth diction. The year thus far has been short on great performances. Blanchett’s belongs to a sadly exclusive club. She’s played Blanche DuBois on the stage. For Allen, she turns the character from a Southern belle into a Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation. But it’s not snobbery she playing. It’s displacement. The separation is from reality. Allen makes use of Blanchett’s statuesqueness. In Ginger’s apartment, at that dentist’s office, in a taxicab, on the glamourless sidewalks of the Mission, Jasmine seems to be in the wrong Wonderland. Blue Jasmine is the searching Allen of Another Woman and Alice, and Jasmine is almost the sort of scornful id that Judy Davis was so good at playing for him. But where Davis came at the comedy with bile and Mia Farrow in Alice with whimsy, Blanchett is going for something unstable but secret. When Jasmine recalls the humiliation of a friend catching her working at a Manhattan shoe store and sneaking out, she goes hard and delirious: “I saw you, Erica Bishop!” Allen has always written good parts for women. This is one of the few to seem made of magic. You actually get the sense that Allen has let Blanchett go off on some kind of adventure, that he planted a seed and this is the wildflower that grew.” – Wesley Morris, Grantland

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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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Get that buzzcut, Cate

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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Cate Blanchett in a scene from Heaven

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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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

Follow along, Blanchett’s episode is available on Netflix.

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.

Follow aong, Manifesto is available on Amazon Prime.

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.

(video edited by Shayma)

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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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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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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Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett in Ocean’s 8
  • 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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Blanchett, Awkwafina, Paulson, Hathaway, Bullock, Kaling, Bonham Carter and Rihanna at the film’s New York premiere June 2018

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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Kristen Stewart eyeballing Cate Blanchett at the Jury photo call at the Cannes Film Festival May 2018

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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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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Follow along, the film is available on Netflix.

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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