Cate Blanchett in ‘Hanna’

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 .

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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?

April 2011.

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.

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Cate Blanchett as the Wicked Wtch coming out of the wolf’s mouth

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 and it’s available on Netflix.
  • Where does this belong in the pantheon of her villain roles which includes Indianna Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull  (2008), Cinderella (2015), Thor: Ragnarok (2017)?
  • Whatever happened to Eric Bana?
  • 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? 
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Cate Blanchett as Marissa Wiegler and Saoirse Ronan as Hanna

Costumes:

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.

Press coverage other than reviews:

NY Times Magazine interview: “People are always saying they loved me in ‘Titanic.”

Promotional appearances:

Blanchett at the Oscars in 2011; a most funny moment
That  famous lilac Givenchy gown she wore to the Oscars was to promote Hanna, which led to the iconic moment captured above.

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Blue Jasmine: 3 Podcasts 1 Amazing Performance

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Have you listened yet to the three part miniseries about Cate Balnchett’s Oscar winning performance in Blue Jasmine? You can listen right here!

Follow along, the film is streaming at Amazon.

#1 Actor as Auteur with Matthew Eng

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.

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#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.

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# 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.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Truth’

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.

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What is the film about?

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?

October 2015

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.

Box Office: Domestic = $2.5MM                Int’l = $5.3MM

Critical Response:     Metacritic : 66                 RT: 63

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Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes in ‘Truth’

Topics Discussed:

  • 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?

Memorable quotes:

“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.

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Redford, Blanchett and Bruce Greenwood in a scene from ‘Truth’

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.

Giorgio Armani hosts 'Truth' film screening at the Cinema Society, New York, America - 07 Oct 2015
Mapes, Blanchett, Redford and Rather at the film’s New York premiere October 2015

Promotional work: Cate on Mapes for NY Magazine:

“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.”

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‘Blue Jasmine’ Part 3 – Jasmine and Her Sisters

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.

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Follow along, the film is streaming at Amazon.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…

What year did it come out?

July 2013

Who does Cate play?

Jasmine of course. One of her many titular characters.

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately and memorably. Jabbering away about her life and marriage to a stranger on a plane, sets the tone for how unstable the character is. 

Box Office:        Domestic = $33MM                Int’l = $66MM

Metacritic : 78          RT: 91

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How often do you quote Blue Jasmine IRL?

Topics discussed:

  • Woody Allen is a well known terrible person. Though the films are great and influential. Art vs. Artist. How do you reconcile your feelings about him and his art that we have loved for many years?
  • Blue Jasmine is a performance driven film. Blanchett just holds the screen. What other examples of this are in Allen’s canon?
  • Annie Hall (1977) – unique character inspired by the actress playing her, Diane Keaton.
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1994)- comedy genius performance from Dianne Weist.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) – another comic “genius” in Penelope Cruz.
  • Interiors (1978) – is it the closest to Jasmine of Woody’s women? Certainly the tragic ends of both Eve and Jasmine are similar. 
  • Or is it Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives (1992), an actress who’s closest in temperament to Blanchett?
  • Mia Farrow’s sublime performance in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985).
  • Emma Stone as the Woody stand-in Irrational Man (2015).
  • Allen’s reputation for many years as “women’s writer director” can’t be denied despite some misogynistic roles e.g Hemingway in Manhattan
  • The work of the costume designer and the makeup artist in helping Cate craft this performance
  • Charting the effects of the economic crisis on one person.
  • This is a lauded performance with critics, awards bodies and audiences – where does this stand among the best performances of the 2010s?

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Peter Sarsgaard, Blanchett, Michael Stuhlbarg and Alec Baldwin at the New York premiere July 2013

References:

“I think Woody Allen is a criminal, but I still think about (& might watch) his old films. I think The Cosby Show should still be aired.” Emily Nussbaum to Terry Gross on NPR.

Promotional Work:

More on Blue Jasmine:

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‘Blue Jasmine’ Part 1 – Actor as Auteur

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.

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Follow along, the film is streaming at Amazon.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister. She looks a million, but isn’t bringing money, peace, or love…

When did it come out?

July 2013.

Who does Cate play?

Jasmine of course. One of her many titular characters.

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately and memorably. Jabbering away about her life and marriage to a stranger on a plane, sets the tone for how unstable the character is.

Box Office: Domestic = $33MM         Int’l = $66MM

Metacritic : 78     RT: 91

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The most memorable one liner in Blue Jasmine? Without a doubt.

Topics discussed:

  • 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.
  • Matthew wrote about both Juliette Binoche and Meryl Streep as auteurs of their movies.

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The climax is heartbreaking. We discuss at length.

Famous quotes:

SO MANY. Who gets the credit Allen or Blanchett?

  • “I saw you, Erika.”
  • “What does that stupidity even mean?”
  • “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.

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Great Performance. Great Win. Great Speech.

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.

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Jasmine clearly hates everyone around her.

“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

More on Blue Jasmine:

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Happy Holidays

With 12 episodes released I want to say thank you for listening and for making the podcast a reality.

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As we close 2019 and look forward to a new year I wanted to thank you for being a big part of my year. We have discussed many of Cate Blanchett’s films with many more coming in 2020.

We’ve discussed some big blockbusters (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and smaller movies (Little Fish, Oscar and Lucinda).

We have talked about her uncanny transformations ino Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, Bob Dylan inI’m Not There and a sorta Marina Abramovic in Documentary Now.

We talked about her big breakout in Elizabeth, the peak of her celebrity post Carol around the time Ocean’s 8 was released.

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and coming in 2020:

  • Deep dives into Carol and Blue Jasmine, the peak of her success
  • takes on her theatrical work all over the world
  • recaps of the FX/Hulu show Mrs America; coming in the spring

 

 

If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider helping with maintenance costs. The cost of a cup of coffee, $3.00.

 

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Oscar and Lucinda’

One of Cate Blanchett’s earliest films, Oscar and Lucinda finds her working in Australia with Gillian Armstrong and Ralph Fiennes. It’s an odd, eccentric but very feminist tale.

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

Guest : Andy Stewart.

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What is the film about?

 From imdb: In mid-1800s England, Oscar, a young Anglican priest, and Lucinda, a teen-aged Australian heiress, are both passionate gamblers. Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport a glass church to the Outback safely, and this leads to the events that will change both their lives forever.

What year did it come out?

December 1997.

Who does Cate play?

Lucinda, an heiress obsessed with glass and gambling and who has an almost desperate desire to liberate her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the Australia of that time.

How is Cate introduced?

13 minutes in the pond speaking French. 

Box Office: Domestic = $1.8M   Int’l = Unknown.

Metacritic : 66. RT: 66.

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Topics discussed:

  • Chemistry with Ralph Fiennes. Funny that their paths never crossed again.
  • Cate in love stories. Always weird, this is one and Benjamin Button was another. Why?
  • Costumes by Oscar nominated Janet Patterson (The Piano, Far From the Madding Crowd).
  • Lucinda as a feminist character to be admired.
  • Gilliam Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career – another headstrong feminist heroine. Role was originally meant for Judy Davis.
  •  Has a strange combination of b plot themes and tones:  rape and murder of indigenous Australian people, religious themes. It starts as a love story, becomes a grim sorta war story  while telling the from cradle to grave life story of the titular characters.
  • The whole Oscar trip without Lucinda was weird and tried my patience.
  • They meet almost 40 minutes into the film, then they are separated for the last 40, it is a strange conceit for what is a maybe love story.
  • Cate and Richard Roxburgh – who plays the villian – have acted together many times on stage.

Memorable quotes:

In order that I exist, two gamblers, one obsessive, one compulsive, must meet.” 

Costumes we loved:

They look right for the period though not memorable. More memorable is that they are roughed up and tousled, don’t look pristine like stuffy costume dramas.

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Fiennes, Blanchett and Armstrong on set

 Scenes we liked:

The confession scene where Oscar and Lucinda “lay their cards on the table” is exhilarating and fun. Played for comedy and both actors are playing several notes.

What seemed off:

Mash up of tones which made it interesting if not entirely successful.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Her second film post Paradise Road (1997).
  • Shekhar Kapur saw stills or scenes from it and cast her in Elizabeth (1998), ultimately leading to her breakout and huge career.
  • Seems to have a small passionate following among Cate’s fans, though not broadly remembered in the culture.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

Ms. Blanchett, whose strength and vivacity recall the young Judy Davis ”My Brilliant Career,” is appealingly well teamed with Mr. Fiennes, who manages to make Oscar as bashfully likable as he is quaint. ’ – Janet Maslin, NYTimes

Ralph Fiennes plays Oscar, an odd Anglican minister addicted to the thrills of wagering; Cate Blanchett is his soul mate, Lucinda — the kind of warm-blooded feminist that may be Armstrong’s most important contribution to the image of women on screen.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum EW

Press coverage other than reviews:

Armstrong to NYTimes on why she chose Cate for the part: “We were looking for someone who wasn’t quite conventional. Cate has this slightly magic quality, as if she can be transported into other worlds.’

Promotional appearances:

New York premiere December 1997.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

This week we discuss one of the most popular films Cate Blanchett has ever been in, yet oddly unrecognized as one of her signature parts. It’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), directed by David Fincher and co-starring Brad Pitt.

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

Guest : Andrew Kendall, some of Andrew’s film writing can be found here.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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Follow along, the film is available on Netflix.

What is the film about?

From imdb: Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.

What year did it come out?

Christmas 2008.

Who does Cate play?

 Daisy; Benjamin’s lifelong friend, they lose each other then find each other in the middle

How is Cate introduced?

The film opens with old Daisy in her deathbed. Then at 0:59 briefly Ballerina Daisy ie older Daisy appears for the first time her face scrubbed of wrinkles. Her story starts at 1:27.

Box Office: North America = $127,509,326 Int’l = $206,422,757.

Metacritic : 70. RT: 71.

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Topics Discussed:

  • Chemistry with Brad.
  • Cate in love stories.. Why does no man seem worthy of her on screen?
  • Outside of LOTR is one of Cate’s biggest hits; a result of wide distribution and availability. Does it reflect her screen persona ie if this was someone’s intro to her or what they know her from?
  • The technology … the makeup.
  • It spins tall tales, not just Benjamin’s but also Mr Gateau. Does the filmmaking fit the style of tall tales?
  • Where does it stand in Fincher’s filmography. Why are his fans and the critical establishment unkind to it?
  • It’s Cate Blanchett pod but let’s talk Taraji too! A very warm performance as evidenced by the laugh after she says “some joy too.” But is this character a modern version of the Mammy archetype?
  • Stacked cast: Mahershala Ali, Tilda Swinton, young Elle Fanning, Julia Ormond, Jared Harris.
  • Which part of the story sags a bit? Perhaps the Tilda part? Not just her story but also the tugboat.
  • Awards wise the film was beloved yet oddly not Cate’s performance, why? Because she’s “the girl?” Because she was absent for long stretches of screen time? The old age makeup despite the expert “old” voice? Was the category just crowded?

Famous quotes:

  • “We are meeting in the middle.” 
  • ‘He gives me the willies, that is not for me” said by one of the sex workers.

Costumes we loved:

  • The red dress on the first date with Benjamin; memorable. 
  • Her ensemble in the post show party when she ditches Benjamin for a fellow dancer.

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Scenes we liked:

  • The short film about Daisy’s accident. 
  • Older Daisy when Benjamin returns as a teenager.

What seemed off :

Is the storytelling too stately and classic for this odd little story? Does the tall tale crumble under the long Dr Zhivago- like epic treatment?

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Julia Ormond, Blanchett and Henson at the LA premiere in December 2008

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Got her hollywood star of fame during the press for this film ie. bought for her by Paramount who released..introduced at the ceremony by Fincher and Kathleen Kennedy.
  • Came at the end of a very busy few years from 2004 to 2008 where Cate was very active in movies. It was the last film she made before taking a sabbatical for 6 years to run the Sydney Theater Company. In those years she didn’t completely abandon movies  (Hanna, Robin Hood) but she wasn’t as active. 

Film within the context of year it’s been released:

Awards: Nominated for 13 Oscars though not for Cate. 

It was a commercial hit yet has strangely disappeared from cultural discourse except for being the one side eyed within Fincher’s filmography.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

The movie, directed by David Fincher, will probably be a hit anyway, because the gimmick (adapted by Eric Roth from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story) is fun to play around with in your head, and because it’s liberating to watch makeup gradually come off an actor instead of getting thicker (and phonier). Fitzgerald spent the later years of his life haunted by the profligacy of his early ones; to reverse time and recover his youthful body and stamina but retain his aged wisdom must have been a blessed pipe dream. Fincher is no humanist (his most vivid film is the clammy, clinical Se7en), and he refrains from milking the material for sentiment—which means the movie isn’t mawkish, but it isn’t especially vivid either. The light is yellowish and diffuse, the backdrops—the clock, a factory wall, the side of a ship—oversize. It’s a gentle expressionism, redolent of death without rattling bones

Fitzgerald’s alter-ego finds his Zelda—called, aptly enough, Daisy—when she visits the convalescent home where his horrified father abandoned him. She grows up to be Cate Blanchett, whose face is uncannily ivory-smooth. When Daisy and Benjamin meet in the middle, both at the peak of their physical perfection, they’re like two Greek statues basking in each other’s radiance, albeit with dialogue that knocks them down a few pegs: “I was thinkin’ that nothing lasts, and what a shame that is.” As they move toward death, one in the direction of infancy and dirty diapers and the other toward old age and osteoporosis, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button attains a level of quiet grace. It’s too bad that I can barely remember the movie after only a week. Nothing lasts, indeed.’ – David Edelstein, NYMag.

Their time as lovers is the film’s most ecstatic passage, to which Blanchett (who played Pitt’s wife, under more trying circumstances, in Babel) lends all her intelligent warmth Richard Corliss, Time.

But the movie’s emotional center of gravity — the character who struggles and changes and feels — is Daisy, played by Ms. Blanchett from impetuous ingénue to near ghost with an almost otherworldly mixture of hauteur and heat.”- AO Scott NYTimes.

“A curious case indeed: an extravagantly ambitious movie that’s easy to admire but a challenge to love.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum EW.

Cate in relation to these co-stars, director, costume designer:

  •  Her only collaboration with Fincher who said about her, “I always say everyone was lucky enough to be in a Cate Blanchett movie.”
  • I want her and Pitt to work again together. Also made Babel together.

Press coverage other than reviews:

Cover of Vanity Fair February 2009. 

Promotional appearances:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Aviator’

What happens when an icon of cinema takes on another icon? Well an Oscar for starters. This week we discuss Cate Blanchett’s performance as Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004).

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

Guest : Manuel Betancourt, check out  his website for some of his writing.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: A biopic depicting the early years of legendary director and aviator Howard Hughes’ career from the late 1920s to the mid 1940s.

What year did it come out?

2004- released in the US in December, the rest of the world in 2005.

Who does Cate play?

Katherine Hepburn. From Sylvia Scarlett to Woman of the Year; 1935 -1940.

How is Cate introduced?

27 miutess in – long wait – Hughes lands on the set of Sylvia Scarlett, first close up with her hand shielding the sun – iconic. Then the golf scene. Gets the movie star treatment of course.

Box Office: Domestic = $102,610,330 Int’l =  $111,131,129.

Metacritic: 77. RT: 86.

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Topics discussed:

  •  Impersonation vs performance – did she get the emotions right? Was it just surface, all perfect accent work, perfect posing in the frame?
  • Who’s Cate’s classic mirror actress? Is it Hepburn? Bette Davis, I think of Blue Jasmine as a Davis film and Cate would’ve killed it in Jezebel or Of Human Bondage.. There are shades of Marlene Dietrich particularly in her androgyny and high glamour. 
  • It’s a series of big scenes / set pieces for Cate/Kate. Every single one a showcase for Cate, no wonder she won the Oscar.
  • Is this Cate’s riskiest performance? Daring to take on an icon in the same medium for which she was known and celebrated. 

“Representing Kate in the same medium, film, in which she existed was very daunting. But because she was so private and few people really knew her, we basically know Hepburn through her films. So of course you have to give a nod to her screen persona when playing her.”- Cate to the NY Times.

  • What constitutes risk in screen acting? Subject matter? Artistic merit / independence? Collaborators?
  • Hepburn’s legacy and screen persona.
  • How does this film fit into Scorsese oeuvre. 

Famous quotes by the character:

Do your worst Mr. Hughes.”

I’m Not Acting.”

Howard, there’s a rather alarming mountain coming our way

I sweat and you’re deaf

And from Leo “You are a movie star. Nothing more

Costumes we loved:

  • The green gown at the movie premiere is to die for.
  • At the club with Hughes and Errol Flynn.
  • The golf outfit.

Scenes we liked:

See above basically all of Cate scenes. Sylvia Scarlett set, Golf, the night club, plane, bathroom, Hepburn family, breakup and later on outside Hughes’ door.

What seemed off:

Basically everything after Howard and Kate break up.The energy left the movie with Cate/Kate. Or is it just me?

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Film within context of Cate’s career:

  • Her first Academy award.
  • Came at the tail end of a few years of films – with the exception of LOTR – that didn’t connect with audiences or critics.
  • Was the start of a few years in which she collaborated with top tier international directors: Soderbergh, Inarritu, Fincher.

Film within the context of year it’s been released:

Awards: Won 5 Oscars (Cate, Sandy Powell, Thelma Schoonmaker, Cinematography and Art Direction). Nominated for Best picture, director, sound mixing, screenplay, Leo and Alan Alda. Cate also won BAFTA, SAG and came in 2nd at National Society of Film Critics. Leo won GG.

What reviews said of Cate:

Cate Blanchett has the task of playing Katharine Hepburn, who was herself so close to caricature that to play her accurately involves some risk. Blanchett succeeds in a performance that is delightful and yet touching; mannered and tomboyish, delighting in saying exactly what she means, she shrewdly sizes up Hughes and is quick to be concerned about his eccentricities.”-  Roger Ebert.

a cheerfully stylized performance.”-  Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.

A merely imitative Cate Blanchett, horsy and cursing, “Hot Dawg!” – Ella Taylor, LA Weekly.

Before he stopped cutting his toenails and hair and spiraled into oblivion, Hughes earned a reputation as a serial romancer. Hepburn was only one of many conquests, but she plays a central role in “The Aviator” because she gets Mr. Scorsese closer to the black box at the center of the story. Ms. Blanchett doesn’t look a thing like Hepburn, a discrepancy she tries to overcome by adopting a purposeful gait and delivering an overblown approximation of the actress’s legendary lock-jaw. For the most part Ms. Blanchett sounds as if she’s channeling one of Hepburn’s own overblown performances. But she gives the story a shot of adrenaline and, more importantly, does her job by making Hughes seem palpably human. So much so that when she runs off with Spencer Tracy you feel her absence immediately.” – Manohla Dargis, The New Times.

This cockeyed romance, which lasts considerably longer in the film than it did in real life, proves as charming as it is unlikely, thanks in large measure to Blanchett’s dead-on rendering of the star’s hauteur and vocal peculiarities.Todd McCarthy – Variety.

Cate in relation to these co-stars, director, costume designer:

  • Only collaboration so far with Scorsese and Di Caprio.
  • First collaboration with Sandy Powell, who’ll go on to costume Cate in Carol And Cinderella.

Press coverage:

  • 2nd of ultimate 5 Vogue covers coincided with the release of this film, Dec 2004.

NYTimes profile:

It’s such a brave performance by Cate, with the accent and mannerisms, that naturally there are those who will feel a certain way about it,” said Mr. Scorsese, who had been impressed with the actress’s “precision and boldness” since “Elizabeth” and considers Ms. Blanchett’s role in “The Aviator” one of the most “daunting in the film, even if some younger viewers won’t know who the real Katharine Hepburn was.

  • Great insight in the article on how she found Hepburn’s voice.

Some fashion moments:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘I’m Not There’

This week we jump ahead to one of Cate Blanchett’s most fascinating transformations; as a version of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There (2007).

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

Guest : Chris Feil, some of Chris’ film writing can be found here. Listen to his Oscar podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: Ruminations on the life of Bob Dylan, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician’s life and work.

When did it come out?

November 2007.

Who does Cate play?

Jude Quinn; a riff on electric guitar 60s counter revolutionary Dylan.

How is Cate introduced?

A dead corpse in the opening of the film, then at min 46 as Jude Quinn with a long VO intro, comes out guitar in hand, then shoots the audience with machine guns.

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Topics discussed:

  • Is this performance mimicry, a trick or much more? Did she find the soul behind the mannerisms?
  • Why was Cate singled out as the standout performance? Beyond genderbending what’s special about the performance?
  • Could we make the case for this being her best performance ever?
  • Which of the 6 Dylan personas work and which don’t? Why? Discussion the other performances.
  • Michelle Williams as Edgie Sedgwick and Julianne Moore as Joan Baez.
  • It’s an inventive way of making a biopic by having a take on its many different styles. Does it work?
  • D. A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary, “Don’t Look Back,” some of which Haynes remakes shot for shot.
  • Has the recent corporatization of music biopics – Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, Yesterday – changed our perception of I’m Not There?

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Famous quotes by the character:

Saying ’cause of peace’, it’s like saying, ‘hunk of butter’, you know, I don’t want you to listen to anybody who wants you to believe is dedicated to the hunk and not the butter

Scenes we liked:

  • Some images are breathtaking, especially the framing of Cate walking through a corridor.
  • Press conference, meeting Ginsberg, Cate’s final shot looking straight at the camera.

What seemed off:

  • What AO Scott called “occasional exasperation at Mr. Haynes sprawling, hectic virtuosity.”

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Film within the context of year it’s been released:

Festivals: Venice, where Cate won the Volpi Cup as best actress.

Awards: Oscar nominee, Golden Globe winner (the year it was not televised), Indie Spirit winner, NSFC winner.

Reviews of film / Cate:

The star of the show is undoubtedly Blanchett, who has great fun playing Dylan as a showboat who quite knowingly goes about creating his reputation for rebellious independence.” – The Hollywood Reporter.

Stylistically audacious in the way it employs six different actors and assorted visual styles to depict various aspects of the troubadour’s life and career, the film nevertheless lacks a narrative and a center, much like the “ghost” at its core.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety.

“If the new film does cohere, for a while, that is thanks to Cate Blanchett, who, armed with curly wig and shades, delivers Jude Quinn, the most gripping of the Dylans on display. She looks like Elizabeth I after a long night out with Walter Raleigh and his packet of virgin smokes. Blanchett seems to yield herself to the project with more gusto and curiosity than the others, as if there were truths about Dylan that need to be unearthed, not merely toyed with, and she is unafraid to remind us of what a pain the man could be, especially when stoned, but even she has to wrestle with the camp knowingness of the script (“I’m the only one with any balls”) and, more alarming, with the flimsiness of the context.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker.

Cate Blanchett, under Wayfarers and frizzy hair, does a spectacular, soul-on-the-sleeve enactment of Dylan in his Don’t Look Back media-put-on phase. Blanchett makes Dylan a cussed dude who uses his wit to wound, and Haynes’ slyest joke is that the actress, from her lurching marionette posture to her boyish cheekbones to her slurry misanthropic mumble, is the film’s most exquisitely spot-on Bob.” – Owen Gleiberman, EW.

“Mr. Haynes’s film hurls a Molotov cocktail through the facade of the Hollywood biopic factory, exploding the literal-minded, anti-intellectual assumptions that guide even the most admiring cinematic explorations of artists’ lives. Rather than turn out yet another dutiful, linear chronicle of childhood trauma and grown-up substance abuse, Mr. Haynes has produced a dizzying palimpsest of images and styles, in which his subject appears in the form of six different people.”AO Scott, NY Times.

Haynes is not what one would call a natural filmmaker. His ideas are too evident, his schemata overly present. He is, however, a sort of natural Brechtian: His actors are always “quoting.” I’m Not There gets surprisingly naturalistic performances from Ledger and especially Bale. But it’s the blatant alienation effect provided by Marcus Carl Franklin and Cate Blanchett’s fastidiously copied mannerisms that truly dramatize the self-invented, sheer sui generis–ness of the Dylan trip.”-J Hoberman, The Village Voice.

Cate in relation to these co-stars, director, costume designer:

Her first collaboration with Haynes. Later Carol.We all owe a great debt of thanks To Todd Haynes’ body of work which has always been independent“ she said accepting the Indie Spirit award.

Press coverage other than reviews:

  • Todd Haynes to Rolling Stone on why he chose an actress for Jude:

“It was written and conceived as an actress to play the part of Jude from the beginning, before I knew it would be Cate. It was really just that moment in Dylan’s life. What was insane about the way Dylan looked in 1966 was that emaciated body, gigantic hair, the flying hands and the sort of weird marionette figure who was obviously exploring drugs and living on the edge. After the motorcycle crash, there was no flying hands, no big hair, no tiny, skinny body. That Dylan was gone forever. That’s such a famous image of Dylan. I wanted to try to reinfuse it with the cultural shock value of seeing that for the first time in 1965, ’66. So I thought an actress could be interesting, because there was an androgyny there. It wasn’t a Bowie androgyny, it was more a Patti Smith androgyny he was channeling.”

“She realised, she says, that Haynes wanted her to “inhabit the silhouette” of 1966 Dylan. “That’s why he’s cast a woman, because it’s the most iconic silhouette of his musical career. It was a really ironic gesture and also very clever. If a man played the role, people would have assessed it in a different way, whereas they’ve been able to get into the strangeness of what Dylan must have been like in that period by the very fact that I’m a woman. I don’t think it’s anything I’ve necessarily done.”

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Blanchett with Haynes at the 2016 Oscars (this is also Chris’ favorite Cate red carpet moment)

  • Haynes on Cate and “the frame,” in an interview with The Film Stage:

“I have to say, the really extraordinary actors I’ve worked with really do care about the frame, when I was working with Cate Blanchett on I’m Not There, she was playing a man in this role of Jude. She would look at playback. She didn’t look out of a sense of vanity; she just wanted to see how her hips were being filmed and how to place her body in the frame to minimize the broadest curves of her female hips. Sometimes it’s very technical reasons why actors want to see what the frame is. It’s all relevant. It all plays into what is the language and the style, and how is that style informing the interpretation of the storytelling and character. I find some of these extraordinary people I’ve been lucky to work with ask questions about the frame, and it’s always for reasons of how they’re going to interpret their performance accordingly.”

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