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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Bonus Podcast: The Buzz on Sundance Movies

In this bonus episode we are discussing the many films we screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. For this conversation Murtada welcomes Li Lai, founder and editor in chief of Mediaversity Reviews to discuss a few films including Bill Nighy in Living, Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and two films for both Dakota Johnson (AmI OK? and Cha Cha Real Smooth) and Regina Hall (Master and Honk for Jesus Save Your Soul).

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Other movies discussed include Rebecca Hall in Resurection, Fire of Love, Palm Trees and Power Lines, Nanny, After Yang, Call Jane, Free Chol Soo Lee, and Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power. We also discuss whether the selection reflected a diversity of voices.

For more context check out Murtada’s letterboxed list.

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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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