This week we discuss Galadriel, Cate Blanchett’s most iconic role. We delve into the enduring populariy of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and what diffrentiates them as excellent action adventure films, what makes Galadriel so special within Blanchett’s filmography and even ask Peter Jackson for a Boromir / Aragon rom-com. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes filmmaker Conrado Falco, co-creator of the show Wormholes and host of The Criterion Project podcast.
This week we take a brief detour from the films of Cate Blanchett. Instead we are discussing a current film, out on release now, Ammonite. Plus the career of Kate Winslet and in the latter part of the podcast we discuss a few other queer films out this season. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest queer writer-performer, producer and filmmaker Ren Jender, whose work has appeared in The New York Times,NPR, Slate, Bandcamp and The Village Voice.
From Wikipedia: “Acclaimed paleontologist Mary Anning works alone selling common fossils to tourists to support her ailing mother, but a chance job offer changes her life when a visitor hires her to care for his wife.”
Who are the main characters?
Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) – a real life fossil hunter who is known to have been single, no historic evidence of her being queer which raised mild controversy before the film’s release – though that’s par for course since queer history is never recorded
Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) – also a real life person though reportedly older that Mary in real life, there is evidence that Mary was invited to her London house for a weekend.
Elizabeth Philpot (Fiona Shaw) – Mary’s neighbor and assumed former lover.
Molly Anning (Gemma Jones) – Mary’s mother and live-in companion.
I recently saw Nomadand at the New Yorl Film Festival from the comfort of my couch.
“You know you are not watching just any old prestige drama when a film throws in a shot of its lead character – played by a 2-time Oscar winner – defecating a mere three minutes into its running time. Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is a film concerned with the concrete realities of life. Things that might seem mundane or unmentionable but take up a big part of everyday life. How a woman carves a small place on earth to sleep, eat, work and yes defecate.”
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
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
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
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?
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. Click to listen:Subscribe: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Spotify/ iHeartWhat 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%).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.“
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.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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The costumes are green, the hair is red and Cate Blanchett is the Wicked Witch in Hanna (2011). Ostensibly a thriller about a teenage assassin, it reveals itself to be a fairytale with a modern twist. For this disscussion, Murtada welcomes back Gavin Mevius, co-host of The Mixed Reviews Podcast .
Click to Listen:Subscribe: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Spotify / iHeart
Follow along Hanna is streaming on HBO / HBO Max.What is the film about?
From imdb: “A sixteen-year-old girl who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.”What year did it come out?
Who does Cate play?
Marissa Wiegler; a CIA operative obsessed with find and killing Hanna. A modern version of The Wicked Witch of the West as evidenced by the almost all green wardrobe.
How is Cate introduced?
13 minutes in. Waking up, teeth first.
Box Office: Domestic = $40,259,119 Int’l = $23,522,959
Critical Response: Metacritic : 65. RT: 71.Topics discussed:
It’s a fairytale! Many allusions to that including at the beginning Hanna reading The Grimms Tales, calling Marissa “the witch,” different allusions in the dialogue e.g. “going to grandma’s house,”, a character named Mr. Grimm, the finale with Marissa literally coming out from the mouth of the big bad wolf.
Joe Wright – general discussion of his career. He made Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and The Soloist before Hanna. Anna Karenina, Pan and Darkest Hour after. We discuss Anna Karenina (2012) at length which is streaming on Netflix.
Saoirse Ronan – is she a Kate Winslet or a Cate Blanchett? She’s been compared to both.
Other castmembers: Jessica Barden is delicious. Did you notice Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread) and Lady Mary from Downton Abbey?
Tom Hollander’s enforcer with his short shorts and skinhead sidekicks. Queer, problematic or both?
They certainly hone on green as a color motif. Sleek corporate suits. Designed by Giorgio Armani, apparently.“Joe’s vision of Marissa as the Wicked Witch of the story meant that her colors would be red [for her hair] and green [in her attire],” says head costume designer Lucie Bates.
Scenes we liked:
Subway station fight with Bana and the goons.
Hanna’s escape is exciting.
Two weird scenes: Hanna afraid of appliances and the introduction of Tom Hollander at his club in Berlin.
Film within context of Cate’s career
Filmed within the time she was running the Sydney Theater Company and wasn’t working much in movies. Between 2008 (Benjamin Button) and 2013 (Blue Jasmine) the time she ran STC she only made this film, Robin Hood (2010) and The Hobbit (2012).
What reviews said of film / Cate:
“Blanchett is a riot as a Nordstrom-attired, Southern-drawled Brunhilde with scarlet helmet hair and aggressively white teeth, what ultimately makes her so harrowing—and so worthy of punishment—is her childlessness. “I made certain choices,” Marissa says, desperately justifying her careerism, before she buries a bullet in a womb-sanctified old matriarch. Hanna is the one that got away and a genetically enhanced reminder of the miserable fate that awaits the ambitious, the infertile, the dentally preoccupied.” – Eric Hynes, The Village Voice.
“Ronan enters with a face nearly as blank as paper and devoid of obvious emotion, her eerie, translucent blue eyes here transformed into opaque pool. You assume or really just hope that those eyes will reveal exciting new depths or a secret of character. That they don’t reveal much is part of the big surprise as well as a liability in a movie that is by turns startling and generic, subtle and blunt, and consistently keeps you in its grip if not its heart.” – Manohla Dargis, NY Times.
In part one we discuss Cate Blanchett as the real auteur of Blue Jasmine, and the many ways her performance makes her the author of the film.
#2 The “Streetcar” Allusions with Candice Fredrick
In part two, we talk about the similarities to Tenesse Williams’ A Streetcar named Desire, the character of Blanche Dubois clearly is the blueprint for Jasmine… the many actresses who played Blanche or were inspired by her from the women in Pedro Almodovar’s movies to Gena Rowlands in Woman under the influence to most recently Carey Mulligan in Wildlife.
# 3 Jasmine and Her Sisters with Jose Solis
And in the final part we discuss Jasmine and her sisters within the Woody Allen Oeuvre. Annie Hall, Helen St Clair in Bullets Over Broadway, Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo, among others.
In Truth, Cate Blanchett plays journalist and TV news producer Mary Mapes in the story of the fallout from the CBS investigation into George Bush’s military service, that led to the resignation of Dan Rather. The performance was warmly recieved even if the film wasn’t widely seen, we examine why in the latest episode. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest Kevin Jacobsen host of And The Runner-Up Is podcast.
From IMDB: Newsroom drama detailing the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes report investigating then-President George W. Bush’s military service, and the subsequent firestorm of criticism that cost anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes their careers.
What year did it come out?
Who does Cate play?
Mary Mapes; TV news producer, and author. She is known for the story of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, which won a Peabody Award.
How is Cate introduced?
Immediately as Mapes is hiring a lawyer who will represent her during an internal investigation that CBS is conducting, the set up for the flashback to the main story.
Blanchett’s performance as the center holding the film.
The movie is based on Mapes’ book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power – does that make it inherently one-sided? Did we need to hear “the other side?”
Awards wise – if this wasn’t the year of Carol could she have contended? Media seemed to think so in early fall post TIFF but the movie actually made no business. Is the performance worthy of awards?
The filmmaking- James Vanderbilt has an interesting career. Wrote David Fincher’s Zodiac (2003), The Amazing Spiderman movies (2012-14) and Adam Sandler’s Murder Mystery (2019). Also produced many movies including another collaboration with Cate; The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018).
Robert Redford as Dan Rather and the other actors – Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace.
The movie was filmed in Australia to accommodate Cate, giving the opportunity to many Australian actors and crew, including a dynamite Noni Hazlehurst as Nicki Burkett. Hazelhurst previously played Blanchett’s mother in Little Fish (2005).
Journalistic procedural similar to Zodiac and other classics of the genre like All the President’s Men and Spotlight – that was the ambition. How was the reality?
“Our story was about whether Bush fulfilled his service. Nobody wants to talk about that. They wanna talk about fonts and forgeries and conspiracy theories, because that’s what people do these days if they don’t like a story. They point and scream. They question your politics, your objectivity, hell, your basic humanity. And they hope to God the truth gets lost in the scrum. And when it is finally over and they have kicked and shouted so loud, we can’t even remember what the point was.”
Scenes we liked:
Above monologue – shows Cate at her best.
The tense tv interview with Col. Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach) – shows the different allegiances, priorities and the corporate machinations.
What seemed off:
The morality tale is intriguing but perhaps the story itself is minor and does not warrant a film treatment?
The exposition between Quaid and Moss where they explain Rather is Mapes’ “father figure.” The film hammers that connection, does it feel real? Much better is the scene in the hotel when they share a drink and he tells her he’ll apologize on camera.
What reviews said of film / Cate:
“Suffering only from a measure of familiarity when set beside the actress’s other work, Blanchett’s performance is forceful yet delicately shaded, and she renders Mapes with admirable complexity: We see a hard-working wife and mother who struggles to find time with [family], but also a tough-as-nails producer whose excitement outstripped her attention to detail at one crucial moment.” – Justin Chang, Variety.
“Blanchett makes us feel the creeping horror of professional disgrace, the fear and stigma, however unfair Mapes argues her treatment may have been. We watch a polished professional come apart at the seams, caught up in self-incrimination and spiralling neurosis. She’s in the form of her life at the moment.” – Tim Robey, The Telegraph.
“The weirdness of “Truth”—and, I fear, its involuntary comic value—arises from a disparity between the sparse and finicky minutiae of the narrative and the somewhat bouffant style of the presentation. As the program airs, those who have toiled on it are seen smiling in proud slow motion, while ordinary folk, all across the nation, in bars and in living rooms, stare up at their TV screens as if witnessing the descent of the Messiah. Later, when the report unravels, along with Mapes’s sang-froid, the film offers up as tear-streaked tragedy which is, in fact, a cautionary tale about photocopying, the moral being that you should check your information at the source. Vanderbilt has marshalled his material with scrupulous care, as he did when he wrote the script for David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” so how come that movie was twenty times more riveting? Partly because of Fincher’s scary visual command, and because deaths rather than deadlines were at stake, but also, I suspect, because the new film clings to the nagging thought that if the National Guard story had held firm the Presidential election—and thus recent history—might have followed a different path.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker.
“I went online, as one does, and I saw this series of interviews Mary gave after the story had come out. I saw this quiet, defensive lockdown in her, and when I met Mary, I found it very difficult to reconcile this vivacious, hilarious, searingly intelligent and instinctual human being with that. I thought, somewhere between those two things, those two energies, lies the performance.”
In the 3rd and final part of the Blue Jasmine miniseries, we discuss Jasmine and her sisters. Annie Hall, Helen St Clair in Bullets Over Broadway, Maria Elena in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo, among others. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with returning guest journalist and theater critic Jose Solís, host of Token Theater Friends podcast.
In the first of three episodes about Blue Jasmine, we discuss Cate Blanchett as the auteur of the film. Despite not writing or directing it, Blue Jasmine would not be as strong or even the same without her performance. Murtada‘s guest this week is writer and critic Matthew Eng.
The actor as auteur. Despite not writing or directing Blue Jasmine, the film would not be as strong or even the same with the performance.
From the beginning we know this is going to be a performance driven film, Blanchett just holds the screen. I knew when she said to the cab driver “Can I have some privacy?” while trembling.
To prove our theory that Blanchett is in fact the author of the film; she pointedly thanked the dialect coach in her Oscar acceptance speech for “bringing Sally and I together,” notoriously Allen doesn’t rehearse or give feedback to actors, though he did tell her “you are awful.”
The work of the costume designer and the makeup artist in helping Cate craft this performance.
Charting what collection of pills and booze Jasmine’s on at all times, and manifesting that in voice, body movement, sweat… the beat before every lie comes out of her mouse.
Her performance in relation to the other actors? Blanchett’s always dominant in movies but the nature of this part showcases that more.
The film starts with a mention of “Blue Moon” and ends with it too, how that makes the performance so poignant.
“Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.
“Tip big, boys!”
“Who do you have to sleep with around here to get a Stoli martini with a twist of lemon?”
“I haven’t shown my face socially in so long”
“New York, Park Avenue”
“This was playing on the Vineyard. “Blue Moon”. I used to know the words.”
Scenes we liked:
Everytime Cate is on screen basically.
What seemed off :
Computer-class subplot – in a lesser actor’s hand the tone deafness of this would be unforgivable. Yet I saw it as another way Jasmine is self-sabotaging.
Film within context of Cate’s career:
Considered the pinnacle of her career, won many awards for it including her 2nd Academy Award. It was a return to movie after a 6 year hiatus running the Sydney Theter Company.
What reviews said of film / Cate:
“Blanchett’s lavish, almost operatic turn as Jasmine sloshes against the sides of this insubstantial movie like liquid in a too-small container (maybe the room-temperature Stoli Jasmine is continually downing) There are many moments in which, as a viewer, you notice and admire Blanchett’s gestures and inflections, but very few in which you understand her deluded character’s motivations from the inside. She disintegrates beautifully before our eyes, not for any specific set of reasons the film maps, but because that’s what tragic heroines like Blanche DuBois are there to do.” – Dana Stevens, Slate
In Blue Jasmine, Allen is back in full-on sourpuss mode, even as he purports to be providing a grand showcase for Blanchett, the performance was touching in places, but it was also mannered and precise, like an artfully torn piece of silk. Blanchett strikes each note as precisely as if she were hitting the bars on a xylophone, and in this way, she fits into Allen’s schematic perfectly. – Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice.
“The movie is almost meant to belong to Blanchett. Allen has set most of the film on her face and within her hopped-up, motormouth diction. The year thus far has been short on great performances. Blanchett’s belongs to a sadly exclusive club. She’s played Blanche DuBois on the stage. For Allen, she turns the character from a Southern belle into a Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation. But it’s not snobbery she playing. It’s displacement. The separation is from reality. Allen makes use of Blanchett’s statuesqueness. In Ginger’s apartment, at that dentist’s office, in a taxicab, on the glamourless sidewalks of the Mission, Jasmine seems to be in the wrong Wonderland. Blue Jasmine is the searching Allen of Another Woman and Alice, and Jasmine is almost the sort of scornful id that Judy Davis was so good at playing for him. But where Davis came at the comedy with bile and Mia Farrow in Alice with whimsy, Blanchett is going for something unstable but secret. When Jasmine recalls the humiliation of a friend catching her working at a Manhattan shoe store and sneaking out, she goes hard and delirious: “I saw you, Erica Bishop!” Allen has always written good parts for women. This is one of the few to seem made of magic. You actually get the sense that Allen has let Blanchett go off on some kind of adventure, that he planted a seed and this is the wildflower that grew.” – Wesley Morris, Grantland