In part one we discuss Cate Blanchett as the real auteur of Blue Jasmine, and the many ways her performance makes her the author of the film.
#2 The “Streetcar” Allusions with Candice Fredrick
In part two, we talk about the similarities to Tenesse 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 Woman under the influence to most recently Carey Mulligan in Wildlife.
# 3 Jasmine and Her Sisters with Jose Solis
And in the final part we discuss Jasmine and her sisters within the Woody Allen Oeuvre. 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.
In Truth, Cate Blanchett plays journalist and TV news producer Mary Mapes in the story of the fallout from the CBS investigation into George Bush’s military service, that led to the resignation of Dan Rather. The performance was warmly recieved even if the film wasn’t widely seen, we examine why in the latest episode. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest Kevin Jacobsen host of And The Runner-Up Is podcast.
From IMDB: Newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush’s military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers.
What year did it come out?
Who does Cate play?
Mary Mapes; TV news producer, and author. She is known for the story of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, which won a Peabody Award.
How is Cate introduced?
Immediately as Mapes is hiring a lawyer who will represent her during an internal investigation that CBS is conducting, the set up for the flashback to the main story.
Blanchett’s performance as the center holding the film.
The movie is based on Mapes’ book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power – does that make it inherently one-sided? Did we need to hear “the other side?”
Awards wise – if this wasn’t the year of Carol could she have contended? Media seemed to think so in early fall post TIFF but the movie actually made no business. Is the performance worthy of awards?
The filmmaking- James Vanderbilt has an interesting career. Wrote David Fincher’s Zodiac (2003), The Amazing Spiderman movies (2012-14) and Adam Sandler’s Murder Mystery (2019). Also produced many movies including another collaboration with Cate; The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018).
Robert Redford as Dan Rather and the other actors – Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace.
The movie was filmed in Australia to accommodate Cate, giving the opportunity to many Australian actors and crew, including a dynamite Noni Hazlehurst as Nicki Burkett. Hazelhurst previously played Blanchett’s mother in Little Fish (2005).
Journalistic procedural similar to Zodiac and other classics of the genre like All the President’s Men and Spotlight – that was the ambition. How was the reality?
“Our story was about whether Bush fulfilled his service. Nobody wants to talk about that. They wanna talk about fonts and forgeries and conspiracy theories, because that’s what people do these days if they don’t like a story. They point and scream. They question your politics, your objectivity, hell, your basic humanity. And they hope to God the truth gets lost in the scrum. And when it is finally over and they have kicked and shouted so loud, we can’t even remember what the point was.”
Scenes we liked:
Above monologue – shows Cate at her best.
The tense tv interview with Col. Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach) – shows the different allegiances, priorities and the corporate machinations.
What seemed off:
The morality tale is intriguing but perhaps the story itself is minor and does not warrant a film treatment?
The exposition between Quaid and Moss where they explain Rather is Mapes’ “father figure.” The film hammers that connection, does it feel real? Much better is the scene in the hotel when they share a drink and he tells her he’ll apologize on camera.
What reviews said of film / Cate:
“Suffering only from a measure of familiarity when set beside the actress’s other work, Blanchett’s performance is forceful yet delicately shaded, and she renders Mapes with admirable complexity: We see a hard-working wife and mother who struggles to find time with [family], but also a tough-as-nails producer whose excitement outstripped her attention to detail at one crucial moment.” – Justin Chang, Variety.
“Blanchett makes us feel the creeping horror of professional disgrace, the fear and stigma, however unfair Mapes argues her treatment may have been. We watch a polished professional come apart at the seams, caught up in self-incrimination and spiralling neurosis. She’s in the form of her life at the moment.” – Tim Robey, The Telegraph.
“The weirdness of “Truth”—and, I fear, its involuntary comic value—arises from a disparity between the sparse and finicky minutiae of the narrative and the somewhat bouffant style of the presentation. As the program airs, those who have toiled on it are seen smiling in proud slow motion, while ordinary folk, all across the nation, in bars and in living rooms, stare up at their TV screens as if witnessing the descent of the Messiah. Later, when the report unravels, along with Mapes’s sang-froid, the film offers up as tear-streaked tragedy which is, in fact, a cautionary tale about photocopying, the moral being that you should check your information at the source. Vanderbilt has marshalled his material with scrupulous care, as he did when he wrote the script for David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” so how come that movie was twenty times more riveting? Partly because of Fincher’s scary visual command, and because deaths rather than deadlines were at stake, but also, I suspect, because the new film clings to the nagging thought that if the National Guard story had held firm the Presidential election—and thus recent history—might have followed a different path.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker.
“I went online, as one does, and I saw this series of interviews Mary gave after the story had come out. I saw this quiet, defensive lockdown in her, and when I met Mary, I found it very difficult to reconcile this vivacious, hilarious, searingly intelligent and instinctual human being with that. I thought, somewhere between those two things, those two energies, lies the performance.”
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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
For our first episode of the podcast, we review Elizabeth (1998), directed by Shekar Kapur. This film is considered to be Cate Blanchett’s international breakout and the first time many people have ever seen her on screen.
Then vs now. Seen then as a new transformative dynamic violent and sexy take on history; different spin than usual polite masterpiece theater drama. That take doesn’t hold as much now since we’ve seen many other historical dramas and of that story in particular.
Historical veracity : “I had to make a choice whether I wanted the details of history or the emotions and essence of history to prevail,” said Kapur.
Cate made a point in interviews at the time that this was an interpretation of English history made by outsiders from the commonwealth; an Indian and an Australian.
Elizabeth growing up into a wily politician; does the performance get us there? Are the behind the scenes political machinations the reason this film was resonant at the time?
The tone of the other performances e.g Vincent Cassel.
Joseph Fiennes vs Ralph Fiennes.
Is it camp?
The Godfather (1972) comparison – many reviews pointed that out, and Kapur himself admitted that he modeled the ending after it.
The gestural quality of Cate’s performance particularly in the quiet scenes where she thinking or wistfully looking at the distance.
The ending is memorable and plays well with the image we know of Elizabeth.
Anne Hathaway on Cate – “It changed my life (Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth). There’s a scene where she does this little nose sniff and, I swear to God, I spent the first 6 years of my on-camera career trying to reproduce it. I never succeeded. People kept saying ‘Do you need a tissue?’“
How the film compares with another film about European royalty, Queen Margot (1994).
There’s a lot of conversations about Elizabeth being a woman in a man’s role. What is the film trying to tell us?
Film within context of Cate’s career:
International breakout. Probably the first time many people – including me – saw her.
Cemented her reputation as somebody to watch, someone who will have a long career and is a star actor. Don’t think anyone would watch it now for any other reason.
Awards: Nominated for 7 Oscars: Best Picture, Cate, Makeup ( Jenny Shircore won), Cinematography, Costumes, Production Design, Score.
Cate won Golden Globe and Bafta.
It was the Oscars of 2 Elizabethan movies (also Skakespeare in Love).
Whoopi Goldberg came out dressed as Elizabeth at the Oscars “I am the African queen, some know me as the virgin queen… I don’t know who.”
More on Elizabeth and the 1998 Oscar race for best actress.
What reviews said of film / Cate:
“Blanchett’s triumph is to create a thoroughly convincing depiction of the journey from canoodling girlhood to the threshold of an imperial monarchy, battling her fears, shedding illusions, absorbing pain, learning judgment, turning anxiety into resolution, acquiring steel and sinew.”- The Guardian.
“the captivating Cate Blanchett rules England in “Elizabeth” as if the monarch’s principal responsibilities were being bejeweled, choosing consorts and saying “Leave us!” with a wave of the hand.” – Janet Maslin NY Times.
More from Maslin “Ms. Blanchett, who was marvelous in “Oscar and Lucinda,” brings spirit, beauty and substance to what might otherwise have been turned into a vacuous role. Still, it’s jarring when the Queen dances in the midst of admirers as if this were “Saturday Night Fever” or sounds an awful lot like Tootsie when she declares: “I may be a woman, Sir William. But if I choose, I have the heart of a man!” Ms. Blanchett’s flouncing Elizabeth is bolstered by an impressive supporting cast, though the secondary characters engage in so many schemes that you may wish Bill, that nice new playwright from Avon, would drop into the film and make more sense of the dramaturgy.”
“But there’s more hot blood running through the veins of this opulent production than its A&E-style subject matter might suggest. This is a sensual, psychologically modern costume drama influenced by both The Godfather and gals’ guides to empowerment; beneath the finery of these schemers beat hearts as up-to-date as any on a TV drama, assuming a TV story line allows for beheadings.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, EW.
“What it gets right is the performance by Cate Blanchett, who was so good as the poker-playing glass manufacturer in “Oscar and Lucinda” (1997) and here uncannily comes to resemble the great monarch. She is saucy and heedless at first, headstrong when she shouldn’t be, but smart, and able to learn. By the end she has outsmarted everyone and become one of the rare early female heads of state to rule successfully without an alliance with a man.” – Roger Ebert
“Elizabeth” is superior historical soap opera that shrewdly side steps all the cliches of British costume drama with its bold, often modern approach.”- David Rooney, Variety.
Mr. Kapur, speaking on the phone from Delhi, said: ”Cate has a combination of strength and vulnerability, which, for me, is what Elizabeth was all about. She attacks a role with a ferocious intellectuality. You can’t pass anything by her, you can’t sweet-talk her into anything. But inside, she is all emotion.”
This vigor also struck Eccleston, who, as the Duke of Norfolk, plays one of Elizabeth I’s chief adversaries. ”There is a directness and gutsiness about Australian women that is great for the film industry, and that was great for Cate playing the monarch,” he said. ”I think that role would have defeated a lot of our middle-class English roses.”
Not many other in the archive… there’s a lot of coverage in 1999 and 2000; post her big breakout when she was appointed as the next big thing because of Elizabeth.
Brenda Blethyn at the Golden Globes where Cate won; she was nominated for Little Voice.
“I only went to see Elizabeth (1998) because of Cate Blanchett. I thought she was absolutely fabulous and I was delighted she won. I think she’s a fabulous actress. I’m not altogether sure about the film but I did enjoy it, primarily because of her… she’s fantastic.”