2019 Redux

While the podcast is on hiatus for the next few weeks, revisit some of our more popular episodes from last year.

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Ocean’s 8 and the peak of Cate Blanchett’s celebrity post Carol (2015).

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Her spot on interpretation of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.

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An early career highlight in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

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‘Elizabeth’ and the 1998 Oscar for Best Actress

For the 2nd season finale of the podcast, we return to 1998. Elizabeth was Cate Blanchett’s international breakout and the first time many people saw her on screen. Hence it deserves a revisit. To discuss the film again, along with Blanchett’s first Academy Award nomination and the 1998 best actress Oscar race, Murtada Elfadl welcomes Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

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What is the film about?

From imdb: The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch. Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Richard Attenborough, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Emily Mortimer, Kelly McDonald.

What year did it come out? 1998.

Who does Cate play? Duh – top billed. 

How is Cate introduced? 7 Minutes in, dancing in a field among her ladies in waiting.

Box Office: Domestic = $30,082,699 (36.6%), Int’l = $52,067,943 (63.4%).

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Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I

Topics Discussed:

  • Why was this performance so well received? It was considered such an arrival of a major star. How much is the role? How much is Cate? She charts a whole journey and character arc from young woman to monarch to stateswoman to almost deity, getting the chance to play innocent, cunning, in love, betrayed; the whole gamut of emotions.
  • So many actresses played this part: Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Anne-Marie Duff, Helen Mirren and Margot Robbie. Why is it so attractive to storytellers?
  • What is the Cate moment that sealed her stardom and Oscar nomination? Basically what’s this film “I have a hurricane in me” from Elizabeth: The Golden Age?
    • Ominously surrounded by men as Elizabeth is interrogated in the tower early on the film. Vacillating between fear and trying to hold it together while answering a barrage of questions.
    • Her scene with Kathy Burke as Mary “I see you are a consummate actress.” 
    • Preparing and delivering her speech to the bishops.
    • Lamenting the defeat of her troops in Scotland by Mary of Guise.
    • The finale “I’ve become a virgin.
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Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. Both won Golden Globes, Paltrow won the Oscar

Other 1998 Oscar Best Actress Nominees:

Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love – the winner. She and Cate both won at Golden Globes.

Meryl Streep, One True Thing – Nomination #11 out of 21. Only nomination for film. Great monologue, “I’m tired of being shushed.”

Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station– won best actress at the Berlinale, LAFCA and NBR. She and Cate were runners up to Ally Sheedy (High Art) at NSFC. Runner up to Cameron Diaz (There’s Something About Mary) at NYFCC. This tweet is funny!

Emily Watson, Hillary and Jackie – forgotten film, more of an afterglow nomination 2 years after Breaking the Waves. Interesting career trajectory with Blanchett as she was considered for Elizabeth.

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The other 1998 Oscar nominees were Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station, Meryl Streep in One True Thing and Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie

Did Paltrow win because she played a romantic lead, something academy members are prone to award —Roman Holiday, Moonstruck—while Blanchett was playing a more traditionally male role as a monarch?

More from Murtada and Izzy: Elizabeth was previously discussed on the podcast. Don’t miss Be Kind Rewind on how Shakespeare in Love won its Oscars.

Note on the headline: This Oscar year is sometimes referred to as “the 1999 Oscars” since the ceremony took place in March of 1999. However I prefer using the year of the film’s release, 1998. 

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’

This week we continue examining Cate Blanchett’s early career by reviewing The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), directed by Anthony Minghella.

Host: Murtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest: Jose Solis, some of Jose’s writing can be found here. Listen to his theater podcast, Token Theater Friends.

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Follow along, the film is available on HBO/HBO Max.

What is the film about?

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith.

IMDB: In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures. The cast includes Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jack Davenport.

When did it come out?

1999, Christmas day in the US. Throughout 2000 in the rest of the world.

Who does Cate play?

Meredith Logue, a wealthy heiress travelling in Italy. A character created for the film.

She’s 4th billed, first after the title. Damon, Paltrow and Law are above the title.

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How is Cate introduced?

8 Minutes in, flummoxed amid a hazy blur of luggage as Ripley arrives in Italy. “What’s your secret?” her first words to Tom.

Topics Discussed:

  • Queer themes… explicit/ not explicit.  
  • Identity “I’d rather be a fake somebody than a real nobody.
  • Class Jealousy.
  •  The American Dream.
  • Meredith Logue is a character created by Minghella for the movie and is not in the book. 
  • Favorite moments for the other actors; Damon, Law, Hoffman and Paltrow.

The cast of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" pose at the
The cast of “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” Matt Damon,  Jude Law, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, in Los Angeles, December 1999.

Costumes we loved:

Blue coat when shopping with Tom.                         At the opera. 

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Awards:

Oscars: Nominationss for Law, Adapted Screenplay, Costumes, Score, Art Direction.

Golden Globes: Drama Film, Director, Damon, Law, Score.

BAFTA: Law for Supporting Actor and Gabriel Yared for Score won. Cate was nominated. Also nominated for Picture, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Her follow up to big breakout of Elizabeth (1998). 

Gained more resonance when Cate played another Highsmith creation in Carol (2015)

Cate has a knack for taking on smaller parts see also Babel (2006), The Shipping News (2001).

Legacy:

Well reviewed but not ecstatically at the time, it has been elevated in estimation throughout the years, in large part because of the subsequent huge careers of the young actors who starred. Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cate. Aesthetics have also stood the test of time. The clothes, the attitudes, sun soaked Italy.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

Meredith is a needy post-debutante played irresistibly by Cate Blanchett.” – Janet Maslin, NYTimes.

Damon, who does an uncanny imitation of Chet Baker’s androgynous rendition of “My Funny Valentine,” but Minghella keeps him on a short leash, and he’s in over his head anyway. Law queens his way through the supposedly straight role, and Gwyneth Paltrow is more tiresome than usual indulging her specialty of scrunch-faced, tearless crying. On the other hand, Philip Seymour Hoffman is exactly on the mark as a supercilious preppie, as is Cate Blanchett as a floundering heiress. It’s a sign of how watered-down the movie is that only the supporting actors have any bite.” – Amy Taubin-The Village Voice.

Cate Blanchett fills her small role with note-perfect detail.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum- EW.

The women are very underwritten. Paltrow is peaky and pallid; Blanchett does her very considerable best with Meredith, though yet again I wonder if anyone is ever going to give her a role to equal Elizabeth.” – Peter Bradshaw – The Guardian

Trivia discussed:

Cate and Julianna Margulies with Hoffman at the premiere (video).

Some of the fashion discussed in this episode:

Cate at the Oscars in 2000, in Lacroix at an event in 2010, in Balenciaga at the Blue Jasmine premiere in 2013.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Elizabeth’

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.

Host: Murtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest : Teo Bugbee, some of Teo’s film writing can be found here.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch.

Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Richard Attenborough, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Emily Mortimer, Kelly McDonald and Daniel Craig.

What year did it come out?

1998 – first played at Venice in September. US limited release in November 1998, wide in February post Oscar nominations.

Who does Cate Blanchett play?

Duh – top billed. 

How is Cate introduced?

7 minutes in, dancing in a field among her ladies in waiting.

Box Office: Domestic = $30,082,699 (36.6%), Int’l = $52,067,943 (63.4%).

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Coronation time for Blanchett as Elizabeth I

Topics discussed:

  • 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.

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Blanchett as Elizabeth delivering one of many monologues in the film

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.

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Cate Blanchett at the 1999 Oscars

Press coverage other than reviews; NY Times profile:

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.

Closing Quote:

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.”

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