Cate Blanchett in ‘Cinderella’

It’s time for another delicious villian from Cate Blanchett. The Wicked Stepmother in ‘Cinderella,’ the 2015 live action Disney remake, directed by Kenneth Branagh. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes writer and podcaster Manish Mathur, host of It Pod To You and Queer and Now podcasts.

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What is the film about?

From Wikipedia: After her father unexpectedly dies, young Ella (Lily James) finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and stepsisters, who reduce her to scullery maid. Despite her circumstances, she refuses to despair. An invitation to a palace ball gives Ella hope that she might reunite with the dashing stranger (Richard Madden) she met in the woods, but her stepmother prevents her from going. Help arrives in the form of a kindly beggar woman who has a magic touch for ordinary things.

Who does Cate play?

The Wicked Stepmother, Lady Tremaine.

How is Cate introduced?

 9 minutes in – Lucifer the cat on a leach, “how charming how perfectly charming.”

What year did it come out?

2015 / it was her follow up to Blue Jasmine. Premiered at the berlin film festival

Box Office: Domestic = $9.1MM Int’l = $1.8MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 67  RT: 83

Topics discussed:

  • Cate gives psychological depth to a usually cartoonish villain – but also hits the high comic notes.
  • Cate talked of being having thought of Joan Crawford and that’s certainly apparent in the hair / costumes and performance 
  • “Have courage and be kind.” It’s hard to play good and kind, but Lily James manages it “they treat me as well as they are able.”
  • The script is fun in dramatizing the story beats we all know, e.g. Cinders being banished to the attic comes as a sweet suggestion to give her bigger room to the step sisters. Or how she meets the prince.
  • The film has a romantic sweep and the visuals look. 
  • Manish’s favorite Cate co-star is Sarah Paulson IRL. Fun conversation about their freindship.
  • The Berlinale premiere and this cute moment:
Cate Blanchett fixing Lily James’ dress at the Cinderella premiere at the Berlinale in February 2015

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“As so often with Disney films, this one is owned by its villain. Cate Blanchett, jaw-dropping in an Easter Parade’s worth of amazing costumes (that 2016 Oscar should just be wrapped up and mailed to Sandy Powell now), is the ace up the film’s fitted satin sleeve. Striking catlike poses and oozing poison when required, she is also given a little humanity, including a surprisingly dorky, vulgar laugh that suggests just how studied and artificial her elegance is. One scene in which she tells her life story like she’s the heroine of a “once upon a time” tale, does in two minutes what “Maleficent” couldn’t do in two hours: it helps us understand her character’s brokenness without declawing her one bit.” – Jessica Kiang, The Playlist.

Enter Cate Blanchett in a delirious swirl of candy-colored evil. As Ella’s wicked stepmother, Blanchett is nasty perfection from her blood red lips to her baroque Sandy Powell-designed gowns. She’s like a cross between Coco Chanel and Norma Desmond, and she smartly plays her harpiedom to the back row of the theater. The fizzy cocktail combination of Blanchett’s cartoonish hauteur and Branagh’s visual razzle-dazzle and confectionary sets (courtesy of the legendary Dante Ferretti) manages to take a tale as wheezy as Cinderella and make it feel almost magical again.”Chris Nashawaty, EW.

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Cate Blanchett as Hela in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

In this episode we discuss another Cate Blanchett foray into playing a villian in a big blockbuster; as Hela the goddess of death in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Other topics discussed include the Marvel cinematic universe, who’s the best Chris and Taika Waititi’s singular comedic vision. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl  with guest writer and critic Joi Childs, host of The Color Grade podcast.

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Follow along, the film is streaming on Disney +.

What is the film about?

From IMDB:  Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor must race against time to return to Asgard and stop Ragnarök, the destruction of his world, at the hands of the powerful and ruthless villain Hela.

When did it come out?

November 3, 2017.

Who does Cate play?

Hela, The Asgardian goddess of death. Hela also happens to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first major female villain.

How is Cate introduced?

About 20 minutes into the film, freed from prison after Odin dies. She immediately destroys Thor’s hammer Mjolnir.

Box Office: Domestic = $315,058,289   Int’l = $538,918,837

Metacritic :74                   RT: 93

Cate’s movement and walk prove how great a physical performer she is

Topics discussed:

  • General impression on Marvel films. Where does Thor: Ragnarok rank?
  • Marvel villains. Have they solved their problem with Hela, Thanos and Killmonger? Or perhaps they never had a villain problem?
  • Cate is usually great when going full camp. Does she go far enough here? Could the script have given here more? What does she bring to the film?
  • Why does Cate play villains in big blockbusters? In addition to Thor she was the heavy in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Cinderella (2015).

Blanchett with Waititi on set

  • Irreverent tongue in cheek tone and quirky characters that obviously comes from Taika Waititi. Is this the funniest superhero movie?
  • Who’s our favorite Chris? Candidates are Hemsworth, Pine, Evans and Messina. Never Pratt.
  • Is Hemsworth funny?  He cerainly keeps trying to be.
  • Hela’s look; skin tight jumpsuit with bare shoulders, smoky eye makeup, antlers.
  • Cate’s body movements are to die for; the walk, the hand movements.
  • Thor and Hulk as comedy buddies – does it work?

Crush that hammer, Cate!

Scenes we liked:

What seemed off:

  • Cate isolated with Karl Urban for most of the film, away from the main action. 

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Like most of the better Marvel efforts, Thor: Ragnarok feels like the work of a unique sensibility instead of a huddle of brand managers. While the studio’s films demonstrated plenty of comic flair right from the start of its shared-universe experiment, with 2008’s Iron Man, recent efforts have veered too far into bland, jokey listlessness; frivolity has trumped lightheartedness, pandering has replaced irreverence. But in Ragnarok, directed by the Kiwi filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi, the gags are weird enough, and land frequently enough, that it all seems to be coming from someplace — and someone — real.”Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice

Cate Blanchett as Hela isolated in Asgaard with Karl Urban

“There are bright spots and imaginative touches here and there, including a high-functioning alcoholic mercenary named Valkyrie (the excellent Tessa Thompson) who winds up entangled in the inevitable war for Asgard’s survival. But whether Waititi is cross-cutting distractedly between planets, letting Blanchett channel her inner Jean Marsh or trying to give Idris Elba and his orange contact lenses something to do, he never finds a proper groove or holds your attention for more than minutes at a time. Maybe that’s not a bug, but a feature. The director has set himself the unenviable task of making a movie that never stops trying to wow you, all while seeming too cool and insouciant to care if you’re wowed or not.” Justin Chang, LATimes

Hela appears, a lithe vision in a black and beetle-green unitard. Her makeup looks like what happens to a smoky eye after you’ve slept in it, and she sports a marvelous set of black antlers, as if she’d raided a glam hunting lodge. She’s surely a very busy Norse goddess, because she disappears for long stretches of the movie. Thor: Ragnarok is boyishly eager to reveal Thor’s goofy likability to us, as if it were something we hadn’t yet cottoned to. Directed by the enormously talented New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, it’s well intentioned but ultimately numbing, an instance of fun overkill whose ultimate goal seems to be to put us into a special-effects coma. Not even the occasional inspired touch — like Cate Blanchett as the silky villainess Hela — can save it. It’s at least three movies rolled into one, with maybe half a decent one in there. But like Thor himself, it sure is big. And if you value quantity over quality, it’s a lot of movie for the money.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Time

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