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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Bonus Podcast: Oscar Nominations Reaction

In this bonus episode we are discussing the 2022 Oscar Nominations. Our take on the acting categories and best picture. The discussion touches on the performances of Kristen Stewart, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, Andrew Garfield and Denzel Washington. We lament the exclusion of Ruth Negga and raise a glass to Lady Gaga’s fun and fascinating press tour for House of Gucci. For this conversation Murtada welcomes back Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

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Other movies discussed include West Side Story, The Power of the Dog and Parallel Mothers and of course the two Cate Blanchett movies that were nominated for best picture Don’t Look Up, and Nightmare Alley.

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Spencer or Twirling with No Substance

Kristen Stewart as Diana Spencer

Halfway through Spencer I began to question whether I have ever liked Pablo Larrain as a filmmaker. Earlier this year his adaptation of Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story was unwatchable. I did not care for The Club (2015). But I had to remind myself that I liked No (2012), Jackie (2016) and Neruda (2016). Maybe this new one will end up in the like column as well. Alas it did not.

Spencer is supposedly the story of the weekend country sojourn in which Princess Diana of Wales, née Spencer (Kristen Stewart), decided to divorce Prince Charles (Jack Farthing). It’s told like a ghost story; a woman in peril in a big house, surrounded by dubious people, some might be in her corner, others want to sabotage her. It’s Diana as Rebecca (1940). And it’s as alienating as much of Larrain’s work. Though done with top notch craft and an aesthetic recognizable to most cinephiles.

Larrain and screenwriter Steven Knight have a good premise. They are trying to tell a story of finding the fortitude to break away from a life that’s suffocating while being completely isolated. However they run out of narrative threads quickly and spend the rest of the movie repeating themselves. Diana, isolated with no one to trust. The servants in the big house (Timothy Spall, Sean Harris and Sally Hawkins among them) might be spying on her for the royal family. Or are they her allies? Repeat over and over again. Then so many scenes of Diana running. Along hallways, in the meadows. And so much twirling. So much twirling. So much of it that it bears repeating. The movie’s true title should’ve been “Twirling With No Substance.” Who knew it would be Larrain who would inherit the mantle from Terence Malick in this most dubious of categories.

There is nothing about what Knight wrote or what Stewart plays that is specifically about Diana. The details are vague. This could be about any anonymous rich white lady trapped in a cult. One who has access to fancy clothes, castles, maids and personal cooks. Stewart plays her like a haunted woman trapped and she’s effective. However she neither looks nor sounds like Diana. Inhabitation is not necessary with biopics, sometimes just a nod to the real person is enough. See Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland. But there’s not even a nod here. If this wasn’t called ‘Spencer” we wouldn’t be talking about awards. Nor would a swath of the potential audience be interested. So maybe it’s a calculated move. Let’s make a movie about a haunted woman trying to escape from a cult. Any woman, no need to be specific nor add any recognizable details. But still call it Spencer. Boo! Awards. Buzz. Magazine covers. Box office though might not materialize if enough people catch on to what it really is. 

Impersonation aside, Stewart is no more than fine. She plays this woman as very frightened, as if she’s in a gothic horror film. Whispery breathy voice, quizzical look. It fits the framework Larrain put her in. However the critical response to this performance is baffling. Even within Stewart’s limited oeuvre it doesn’t stand out. She’s been much more affecting with Olivier Assayas in Clouds of Sils Maria (2015) and Personal Shopper (2017).


All of this would have been forgotten if Spencer actually had a story to tell. This is a bunch of scenes shot well, with actors repeating the same notes over and over in different but limited locations. There is nothing to see here.

Fashion Moments We Hope to See at Venice

Cate Blanchett will start her jury president duties at the Venice International Film Festival this Wednesday September 2. The festival will be the first major international film event since the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled all events around the world. Fashion lovers  are cautiously excited since there will be some sort of red carpet.

Blanchett has indicated in an interview with WWD magazine that she plans to exclusively re-wear looks from her closet throughout the festival. Yes, no new couture for Cate this year. It fits a socially distant event to be more responsible and promote sustainability. So we applaud the decision and suggest six looks we hope to see on Cate in the next 10 days.

Arriving at this list was arbitrary. Balnchett has wowed so many times that it’s futile to try to come with any rhyme or reason for my choices. It’s just a few that I love. There is one I did not choose whilst being my favorite because I’d like it to remain exclusive to that moment, the Carol premiere at Cannes. 

Where / When : The Oscars, February 2011

Designer: Givenchy 

Divisive at the time but now universally acknowledged as one of Cate’s most audacious red carpet moments. Everything about it is unusual. The pale lavender color spiked with yellow, the intricate embroidery, the pleats and the architectural breast piece. So avant garde, so Cate!

Where / When: SK-II event in Shanghai, September 2010

Designer: Christian Lacroix 

This is more obscure yet remains one of my faves ever. A glowing burgundy gown embellished with shimmering gold sequins. We have previously waxed poetic about it on the pod.

Where / When: The Oscars, February 2007

Designer: Armani

She wore this column Armani couture silver sheath the year she was nominated for Notes on Scandal. That was also the year she witnessed a moment we love from the telecast. You can see her front row clapping and whooping when The Aviator director, Martin Scorsese won his first Oscar after many nominations and decades of a wonderful career. 

Where / When: Cannes Opening Night and premiere of Robin Hood, May 2011

Designer: Alexander McQueen 

What a way to pay tribute to the recently deceased McQueen at the time. Cate wore this gorgeous black and white gown with the striking eagle print just 3 months after McQueen had passed.

Where / When: The Good German, LA premiere, December 2006

Designer: Versace 

This cream and gold peekaboo dress is singular but rarely mentioned in any fashion retrospectives about Cate. Bring it back, let the people enjoy.

Where / When : The Oscars, February 2005

Designer : Valentino 

Go big and re-wear something from one of your biggest career moments. That would be the bespoke Valentino that was specially designed for her to collect her first Academy Award. Cate and Valentino wanted to create a unique fashion moment, so he dressed no one else that year at the Oscars. This Yellow taffeta with the mauve sash was certainly a big wow and my favorite Oscar fashion from Cate. 

I haven’t chosen anything from last year’s Venice or from her stint as jury president in Cannes 2018 because I wanted to go further back in time. However let us know in the comments what you want to see repeated from those festivals?

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The Podcast is on hiatus

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The second season of the podcast has wrapped. My thanks to all my guests on this 2nd season of Sundays with Cate. Hope you enjoy all 14 episodes that we recorded. I will taking a short break and will return later in the summer. Notes on a Scandal, Carol we have a few movies we havent discussed as well as other surprises in store for Season 3 of the show.

In the meantime all episodes and show notes are available here – just scroll down or click on the right side bar for you favorite podcast app.

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