Cate Blanchett in ‘The House with a Clock in its Walls’

A witch and a warlock teach an orphan boy how to becme a magician in The House with a Clock in its Walls, one of Cate Blanchett’s more curious film choices. We discuss her performance, what makes co-star Jack Black special on screen and briefly touch on the response to her two films on release. For this conversation Murtada welcomes filmmaker and podcaster Chels, from Untitled Cinema Gals to the podcast.

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Topics Discussed:

  • This is a “nice” movie, in addition to being a kid’s movie.
  • A humorous script (written by Eric Kriple based on the novel by John Bellairs), full of bon mots “do the right thing, lie to the kid,” verbal barbs between Florence and Jonathan (Jack Black).
  • Jack Black – what makes him special on screen. We choose his best film and coolest moment. “Look at Catherine Zet Jones, she’s snoring,”
  • Contemporary actresses who played witches include Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer(The Witches of Eastwick)Meryl Streep (Into the Woods), Anjelica Huston (The Witches), Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock (Practical Magic), Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia). Who’d win in a battle?
  • We celebrate the annoucement of Blanchett’s collaboration with Pedro Almodovar for an adaptation of Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women.
  • Brief discussions of the two Blanchett movies out on release now; Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

She really liked working with Eli Roth, because they are re-teaming this year with Borderlands. This must “the one for my children.”

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Nightmare Alley’

Cate Blanchett is back in cinemas this holiday season. And the podcast is back for a final season of episodes. We kick things off with the first of the two Cate movies coming out this month, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley. For this conversation Murtada welcomes film critic Leila Latif, to discuss the film, how it differs from 1947 version, and the performances of Cate as a femme fatale, Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper and Toni Colette.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, with a screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Kim Morgan, adapted from William Lindsay Gresham’s novel. 

Who does Cate play?

Lilith Ritter, a psychologist with a dark past and hidden agenda, who holds the key to the events unraveling in the film.

How is Cate introduced?

About an hour into the 2 and half hour movie, in shadows in a nightclub. A real movie star introduction.

Topics discussed:

  • A bleak noir within Del Toro’s obsessions; only this time the monsters are human and there are no supernatural elements 
  • The arc of Stan’s character as played by Bradley Cooper.
  • Cate as noir femme fatale – delivered on the promise of The Good German.
  • This is another of Blanchett’s oh so glamorous roles.
  • Because of the genre (noir) and period (1940s) Blanchett’s performance has been compared to the stars of Hollywood Golden Age. Does she remind us of any in particular?
  • The chemistry between Blanchett and Cooper.
  • The all star cast, who makes an impression? Rooney Mara, Toni Colette, Willem Dafoe, David Strathairn, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen…… etc.
  • The crafts – the production design (Lilith’s office, the carnival), costumes, lush cinematography (does it fit the genre?) 
  • This version vs the 1947 version.
  • The 1st half vs the 2nd – there seems to be a clear divide and a clear favorite with those who watched so far 
  • Does the film have full frontal nudity? It’s “blink and miss it,” but it’s there and in these cinema puritanical times I appreciated it.
  • We rank Nightmare Alley within Del Toro’s filmography and Cate’s.
  • *********SPOILERS********* Skip between 28.00 and 36.00 if you don’t want to be spoiled*********

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Announcing The Final Season

The podcast returns on Sunday December 19th for a fourth and final season. Listen to this short announcement where the first film discussed is revealed.

Includes a snippet from The Good German episode with host Murtada Elfadl and guest Megan McGurk, host of Sass Mouth Dames podcast.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Man Who Cried’

Glamour! Big Acting ! An Accent! A few hallmarks of Cate Blanchett’s performances that we love are present in Sally Potter’s The Man Who Cried (2001). It’s a commanding star turn that shows Blanchett at her best, and for that the movie is a must-see for every Blanchett fan. We discuss the film and performance. Plus revisit Mrs. America and the show’s chances at the winter TV awards (Golden Globes and SAG).

Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience.

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What is the film about?

From Wikipedia: A Russian Jewish girl (Christina Ricci) is separated from her father in 1927 and escapes to England, where she’s rechristened Suzie. She grows up to be a singer in a Parisian theater populated by a glamorous Russian dancer (Cate Blanchett), an egotistical Italian tenor (John Turturro) and a handsome horseman (Johnny Depp). When the Nazis invade France, however, Suzie’s life is suddenly in danger, and she attempts to flee to the United States, where her father moved years earlier.

Who does Cate play?

Lola, a glamorous Russian dancer.

How is Cate introduced?

20 minutes in as the star attraction amidst a chorus of dancers. after she finishes the dance, she winks directly at the camera and the audience.

What year did it come out?

 Premiered at Venice September 2000. US release May 2001.

Box Office: Domestic = $747K Int’l = $575K

Critical Response: Metacritic : 40 RT: 35

Topics Discussed: The Man Who Cried

  • This movie hardly made a ripple in 2001. It is one of the very few Cate performances that I have never watched until now. Very hard to find…. youtube is your friend (wink).
  • Sally Potter as a distinctly visual filmmaker.
  • One of Cate’s early roles. Does the star quality appear? Of course, in fact this is a must-see for any Cate Blanchett fan because it shows her total command and allure as a screen star.
  • NBR awarded Cate best supporting actress for 2001 body of work including this, LOTR and The Shipping News
  • Again a very physical full bodied performance – a theme we’ve talked about on this podcast. There’s a nervous energy to it though. Lola is always moving, gawky, not graceful like some of her other characterizations.
  • Memorable look; albaster skin, red cherry lipstick, very blond hair – so very noticeable
  • Cate the droll comedian, we dig deep into one scene; when telling the rules of seducing men… “without my looks I wouldn’t have gotten out of Russia.”
  • Lola is a tragic figure . We talk about how Cate makes her so with emphasis on a couple of other scenes.
  • One of a few movies that Christina Ricci headlined – what do we think of her?
  • What’s with all the brooding Johnny Depp on horseback scenes – for a while both he and Ricci are silent in their scenes together.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

2000 – 2001 was the time when the choices she made post her breakout with Elizabeth began appearing for audiences. She chose a few supporting roles; all of them very far from that monarch and one lead role in The Gift (2000); previously discussed.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Blanchett’s role is the dazzler: Rolling her eyes, shrugging her shoulders and flinging her long limbs about insouciantly, she’s the soul of studiously artificial glamour, whether shimmying in a trashy revue or bewitching an unwary suitor.” – Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide.

“The movie is like a series of climactic moments from a World War II mini-series strung together without the undercurrents that might build character: it’s all big moments, the world’s longest and most sincere trailer. In fact, the title character doesn’t even appear until the end of the picture. (Before that the film should be called ”The Woman Who Cries,” since Ms. Ricci’s trembling chin gets quite a workout.)

With accents heavier than the melodrama going on around them, Ms. Blanchett and Mr. Turturro add comic weight and warmth as two predators sizing each other up before they realize they’re the same species.” – A O Scott, NYTimes.

“Ironically, in the midst of all this high caloric camp, the one performer who escapes with her dignity, Cate Blanchett, does so not by underacting but by getting in full shameless touch with her miscast inner ham. As Lola, a transplanted Moscow gold-digger with a borscht thick accent and lips as glossy red as the inside of a chocolate covered cherry, Blanchett is like Mata Hari played by Gwen Stefani impersonating Veronica Lake. It’s hard to take your eyes off of acting this knowingly overripe.”Owen Gleiberman, EW

Topics Discussed: Mrs. America & miscellaneous

  • Last time we talked Mrs. America was about to be released – our thoughts on the series.
  • Cate’s performance on the show is a major career highlight. Check out our recaps of the show.
  • Awards chances for Cate and the show at the upcoming winter awards (Glden Globes and SAG).
  • Looking forward to Nightmare Alley and her collaboration with Guillermo Del Toro and Bradley Cooper.

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