Season Finale: TÁR Wide Shut

Like all good things, the TÁR season comes to an end. Murtada Elfadl  welcomes writer and podcaster Manish Mathur, host of It Pod To You podcast to discuss the thematic correlations between TÁR and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. They also delve into how repeated viewings of the film reveal deeper meaning and the popularity and memefication of Lydia Tár.

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What is the film about?

Official synopsis: From writer-producer-director Todd Field comes TÁR, starring Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, the groundbreaking conductor of a major German Orchestra. We meet Tár at the height of her career, as she’s preparing both a book launch and much-anticipated live performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Over the ensuing weeks her life begins to unravel in a singularly modern way. The result is a searing examination of power, and its impact and durability in today’s society. Directed by Todd Field, with a screenplay by Field  

Critical Response: Metacritic : 91    RT: 92

Topics Discussed:

  • In Eyes Wide Shut, the guy at the piano is Todd Field. Nick Nightingale. Blanchett dubbed one of the voice in the movie and a connectio to TÁR was born.
  • Thematic correlations between the two films: the long tracking shots, allowing the actor the space to act and move as the character.
  • The themes TAR grapples with – how power corrupts exceptional people, is it about cancel culture? What else?
  • What are some of the other  cinematic influences and inspirations noticed in TAR.
  • Things saw at second, third and fourth viewings.

Further Reading: 

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TÁR: The Spoiler Podcast

The TÁR discussion continues with a special spoiler episode. Murtada Elfadl welcomes actor Wyatt Fenner, from the upcoming movie Chrissy Judy, to dig deeper into Cate Blanchett’s latest towering performance, where Todd Field places the POV, spoiling the film and in particular three big scenes that form the thesis of the film including the rather divisive ending.

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What is the film about?

Official synopsis: From writer-producer-director Todd Field comes TÁR, starring Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, the groundbreaking conductor of a major German Orchestra. We meet Tár at the height of her career, as she’s preparing both a book launch and much-anticipated live performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Over the ensuing weeks her life begins to unravel in a singularly modern way. The result is a searing examination of power, and its impact and durability in today’s society. Directed by Todd Field, with a screenplay by Field  

Critical Response: Metacritic : 91    RT: 92

Topics Discussed:

  • The perspective of the film – is TÁR from Lydia’s POV?
  • Spoiler deep dive into three essentila scene; 1) At Julliard 2) bullying a child in the school playground and 3) the ending.
  • The unraveling of Blanchett on screen – a comparison of how she does that in TÁR, Blue Jasmine and Notes on Scandal.
  • The performances of Nina Hoss and Noémie Merlant.

Further Reading: 

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TÁR Season: TÁR

The time has come to discuss TÁR. This week Murtada Elfadl welcomes critic and prgrammer Rafa Sales Ross to discuss Cate Blanchett’s latest towering performance, Todd Field’s elsusive jigsaw puzzle script and Nina Hoss’ fantastic reaction shots. This is the first episode in a planned trilogy.

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What is the film about?

Official synopsis: From writer-producer-director Todd Field comes TÁR, starring Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, the groundbreaking conductor of a major German Orchestra. We meet Tár at the height of her career, as she’s preparing both a book launch and much-anticipated live performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Over the ensuing weeks her life begins to unravel in a singularly modern way. The result is a searing examination of power, and its impact and durability in today’s society.

Directed by Todd Field, with a screenplay by Field  

Critical Response: Metacritic : 90    RT: 97

Topics Discussed:

  • The themes the movie grapples with – how power corrupts exceptional people, is it about cancel culture?
  • Lydia Tar as a narcissist and juicy character – who does she remind us of?
  • Lydia’s world – luxurious – at the height of the cultural hierarchy.
  • A film about process and hierarchy of art.
  • The framing and the long uninterrupted scenes.
  • What are some of the cinematic influences and inspirations noticed in TAR.
  • Cate’s performance – what makes it tick? What’s different?
  • Nina Hoss.

Spoilers starting @ 52 mins:

  • Teaching at Juilliard
  • The ending

Further Reading: 

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TÁR Season: Little Children

Our celebration of the release of TÁR continues. This week it’s Todd Field’s second film as a writer / director, Little Children. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Kevin Jacobsen host of And The Runner-Up Is podcast, to discuss what makes Field’s movies entralling, Kate Winslet quintessentially American roles, why Patrick Wilson never became a big star, suburban ennui and Madame Bovary.

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Topics Discussed:

  • Todd Field – what makes him special? Themes he’s concerned about? Actors do great work in this film. 
  •  Deep Dives in the actors. Kate Winslet; her stature at the time, her screen presence, her awards trajectory.
  • Patrick Wilson brings an appealing blankness into which you can project much but perhaps stopped him from becoming a star.
  • The visuall invetiveness of this movie. always , the scene of jackie in the pool 
  • 2006 Oscar race and this being Kate Winslet’s 5th nomination – why was there no overdue narrative?

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TÁR Season: In the Bedroom

The podcast is back! There’s a new Cate Blanchett movie in theaters soon so a conversation must be had. To celebrate TÁR we will have a few episodes to discuss the movies that preceded it and the ones that inspired it. This week it’s Todd Field’s first film as a writer / director, In the Bedroom.In this episode Murtada welcomes programmer and podcaster Desmond Thorne to discuss what makes Field’s movies entralling, and the mood, tension and outsize performances of Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson in this chamber drama.

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Topics Discussed:

  • Todd Field – what makes him special? Themes he’s concerned with?
  • Actors do great work in this film even in the smallest parts.
  • HowField sets up the life of the inhabitants of this small town so precisely and the relationships between them, then zeroes in to the main characters 
  • The tension between Marisa Tomei and Sissy Spacek from the first scene
Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson in In the Bedroom
  • All the confrontations and the arguments leading to the murder happen just off camera. Never showing “the main event” but what’s around it.
  • We go deep into the big confrontation scene between Spasek and Tom Wilkinson
  • The thriller elements at the end – antithesis to not showing at the beginning?

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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 ‘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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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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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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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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