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 ‘Charlotte Gray’

We are in the final stretch of the podcast series. This week it’s another of Cate Blanchett’s many titular roles and Charlotte Gray (2001). In this episode Murtada discusses Gillian Armstrong’s World War II film, the many loving close ups she affords Balnchett and whether the film works as both a sweeping epic romance and a narrative about life in occupied France during the war.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A young Scottish woman joins the French Resistance during World War II to rescue her Royal Air Force boyfriend who is lost in France.

What year did it come out?

2001.

Box Office: US= $741,000 Outside US = $4.5MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 48    RT: 33 

Topics Discussed:

  • The top notch crew behind this film. From the director Gillian Armstrong (Oscar and Lucinda) to the cinematographer Dion Bebe (Memoirs of a Geisha) and custom designer Janty Yates (House of Gucci).
  • The many loving and gorgeous closeup Cate Blanchett is afforded in this film.
  • Does the film work as a sweeping epic romance as well as a narrative about life in occupied France during World War II? Two scenes are dissected .
  • Charlotte Gray announces early in the film, “I want to be brave.” Does the film deliver on that declaration?
Billy Crudup and Cate Blanchett in Charlotte Gray

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Pushing Tin’

This week we go back to almost the beginning of Cate Blanchett’s illustrious career with Pushing Tin (1999). To discuss Mike Newell’s film and the performances of Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton, Murtada welcomes to the podcast Mitchell Beaupre, senior editor at Letterboxd.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB:  A feud develops between two air traffic controllers: one cocky and determined while the other is restrained and laidback, which inevitably affects their lives.

Who does Cate play?

Connie Falzone, the New Jersey wife of an air traffic controller whos feuding with a co-worker.

What year did it come out?

1999.

Box Office: US= $8.4 MM Outside US = unavailable

Critical Response: Metacritic : 47    RT: 48 

Topics Discussed:

  • This cast! Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. Where they were in 1999 and where they are now.
  • The Blanchett look – the fringe, the earrings, the makeup – very Jersey.
  • Unforgivable that they had Blanchett and Jolie and did not give them at least one meaty scene together. Their only interaction is a brief one with the other “wives.”
  • Mike Newell from Four Weddings (19944) to Donnie Brasco (1997) to this. He was on a roll. Was this the film that derailed him? His follow-ups are all flops – Mona Lisa Smile (2203), Love in the Time of Cholera (2007) and Prince of Persia (2010).
  • Sometimes plays like an anthropological look at a certain frat bro culture. The one upmanship, the competitiveness, the explanation of what ”being a man” is, 
  • He said attractive?” – Cate’s best moment.
  • Pre 9/11 – so much shenanigans that would never happen around planes these days.
  • The “big gesture” ending, perhaps of that “boombox serenade” from Say Anything (1989).
  • When Bily Bob abd Angelina kiss with everyone’s mouths agape – the same reaction of the whole world to their antics at that time “we fucked in the car.”

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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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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