Cate Blanchett in ‘The House with a Clock in its Walls’

A witch and a warlock teach an orphan boy how to becme a magician in The House with a Clock in its Walls, one of Cate Blanchett’s more curious film choices. We discuss her performance, what makes co-star Jack Black special on screen and briefly touch on the response to her two films on release. For this conversation Murtada welcomes filmmaker and podcaster Chels, from Untitled Cinema Gals to the podcast.

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Topics Discussed:

  • This is a “nice” movie, in addition to being a kid’s movie.
  • A humorous script (written by Eric Kriple based on the novel by John Bellairs), full of bon mots “do the right thing, lie to the kid,” verbal barbs between Florence and Jonathan (Jack Black).
  • Jack Black – what makes him special on screen. We choose his best film and coolest moment. “Look at Catherine Zet Jones, she’s snoring,”
  • Contemporary actresses who played witches include Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer(The Witches of Eastwick)Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Anjelica Huston (The Witches), Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock (Practical Magic), Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia). Who’d win in a battle?
  • We celebrate the annoucement of Blanchett’s collaboration with Pedro Almodovar for an adaptation of Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women.
  • Brief discussions of the two Blanchett movies out on release now; Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

She really liked working with Eli Roth, because they are re-teaming this year with Borderlands. This must “the one for my children.”

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‘Carol’ Part Two: The Queer Cultural Impact

In the second of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the cultural impact the film had on queer people. From memes to comedy routines, Carol was adored. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes writer and film programmer Shayna Maci Warner of Critically Queer, to review the film and talk about its queer legacy.

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The film is available on vudu.

What is the film about?

From Letterboxd:  In 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman. Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith

Who does Cate play? 

Carol, a wealthy NJ woman in 1952 who begins an affair with a young shopgirl that has big ramifications on her life.

How is Cate introduced? 

3 minutes in as Carol and Therese are interrupted at the Plaza..yet it’s that mesmerizing first look in the department that seals the deal we are in for something special.

What year did it come out?

2015

Box Office: Domestic =  $12.7 MM, Int’l =  $27.5MM its cultural impact goes way beyond these numbers.

Critical Response: Metacritic : 94     RT: 94

Topics Discussed:

  • A lesbian film made by queer people: Todd  Haynes, Phyllis Nagy, Christine Vachon, Sarah Paulson. There are some straights too.
  • Desert Hearts (1986) another great lesbian film.
  • The Democratization of access and how it led to Carol‘s cutural impact., see also Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1986).
  • Carol’s seduction of Therese.
  • Cate Blanchett’s heightned portrayal of Carol, playing both the character and the way Therese sees her.
  • The innuendo, the declaring love without saying anything, the drop of the gloves. These  women use everything at their disposal to communicate; except words.
  •  Rooney Mara charts a stingingly real arc for Therese from naivety to maturity.
  • The chemistry between Blanchett and Mara.
  • Blanchett’s ’s chemistry with Sarah Paulson – the only known queer person in the cast.
  • “Mommy’s baby.”
  • The memes; “Harold they are lesbians,” the support group , “gay shaking”  
  • Kathryn Hahn and Rachel Weisz set to the score of Carol.

Other episodes in the Carol series:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Don’t Look Up’

There’s a comet hurtling towards earth and a bunch of movie stars at trying to not look up at it. To discuss Cate Blanchett’s second movie this holiday season -Adam McKay’s climate change satire Don’t Look UpMurtada welcomes critic Boyd van Hoeij from The Film Verdict to the podcast.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.

Who does Cate play?

Bree Evante, a morning news show host determined to put a positive spin on news.

What year did it come out?

2021

Critical Response: Metacritic : 52     RT: 56

Topics Discussed:

  • General impression on Adam McKay and his films.
  • Don’t Look Up is being sold as a cross between Dr Strangelove and Network. Are the similies spot on?
  • The targets of the satire – incompetent governments, media, tech billionaires, populace believing in politics not science – are obvious. There’s a shorthand that makes each character’s real world avatar easy to get hence the laughs but does that undermine the film’s intelligence?
  • Huge cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Ariana Grande, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet… and more? Who’s funny? Who’s annoying? Who’s unmemorable? Who brought the heart and pathos? Who stands out?
  • Leo’s big Peter Finch-like monologue. Does it work?
  • Cate’s look; called “yassified” by the NYTimes. Extreme fembot.
  • Cate and Leo – The Aviator reunion?
  • Cate and Meryl; they are in one scene together but hardly interact. So we fantasy cast them in other projects

Film within context of Cate’s career:

2021 is turning out to be a big year for Blanchett. She has this and Nightmare Alley coming out within days of each other. 

Cate Blanchett in Supporting Parts:

  • Cate came to prominence as a lead in Elizabeth (1998) but has since taken many supporting roles. Is there a link between them? In story? In collaborators?
  • Some of the supporting parts include The Man Who Cried (2000), The Shipping News (2001), Babel (2007), Hanna (2011).

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‘Carol’ Part One: The Love Story

In the first of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the love story. How Therese and Carol fell in love, how Todd Haynes visualizes falling in love and the scorching chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes filmmaker Luke Willis, to discuss all the above as well as rank the best line reading uttered by Blanchett.

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Topics Discussed:

  • Charting the love story in six set pieces 1) meeting at the department store 2) Therese’s visit to Carol’s NJ home 3) the rooftop decision to travel together 4) Waterloo 5) the gun and 6) the finale
  • Cate’s chemistry with Rooney Mara. Playing illicit secret lovers, the screen must smolder if the bond is to be believed. And it does!
  • That opening; that interruption in the first scene- heartbreaking when you consider what’s coming up.
  • Cate’s chemistry with Sarah Paulson -building a physicl language for people who have known each other for years.
  • Favorite line reading of Cate’ and a few fantastic silent moments.
  • Creamed spinach over poached eggs” isn’t that disgusting… that’s what people ate in 1950s? “Dry martini with an olive” though I love. 
  • The movie is so of such rich details, it rewards repeat watching.
  • Therse’s naivety and Carol’s wordliness – the contrast and Therese’s journey to maturity.

Other episodes in the Carol series:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Nightmare Alley’

Cate Blanchett is back in cinemas this holiday season. And the podcast is back for a final season of episodes. We kick things off with the first of the two Cate movies coming out this month, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. For this conversation Murtada welcomes film critic Leila Latif, to discuss the film, how it differs from 1947 version, and the performances of Cate as a femme fatale, Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper and Toni Colette.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, with a screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Kim Morgan, adapted from William Lindsay Gresham’s novel. 

Who does Cate play?

Lilith Ritter, a psychologist with a dark past and hidden agenda, who holds the key to the events unraveling in the film.

How is Cate introduced?

About an hour into the 2 and half hour movie, in shadows in a nightclub. A real movie star introduction.

Topics discussed:

  • A bleak noir within Del Toro’s obsessions; only this time the monsters are human and there are no supernatural elements 
  • The arc of Stan’s character as played by Bradley Cooper.
  • Cate as noir femme fatale – delivered on the promise of The Good German.
  • This is another of Blanchett’s oh so glamorous roles.
  • Because of the genre (noir) and period (1940s) Blanchett’s performance has been compared to the stars of Hollywood Golden Age. Does she remind us of any in particular?
  • The chemistry between Blanchett and Cooper.
  • The all star cast, who makes an impression? Rooney Mara, Toni Colette, Willem Dafoe, David Strathairn, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen…… etc.
  • The crafts – the production design (Lilith’s office, the carnival), costumes, lush cinematography (does it fit the genre?) 
  • This version vs the 1947 version.
  • The 1st half vs the 2nd – there seems to be a clear divide and a clear favorite with those who watched so far 
  • Does the film have full frontal nudity? It’s “blink and miss it,” but it’s there and in these cinema puritanical times I appreciated it.
  • We rank Nightmare Alley within Del Toro’s filmography and Cate’s.
  • *********SPOILERS********* Skip between 28.00 and 36.00 if you don’t want to be spoiled*********

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Announcing The Final Season

The podcast returns on Sunday December 19th for a fourth and final season. Listen to this short announcement where the first film discussed is revealed.

Includes a snippet from The Good German episode with host Murtada Elfadl and guest Megan McGurk, host of Sass Mouth Dames podcast.

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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.
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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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