The Lord of the Rings

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.

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Follow along the trilogy is streamig on HBO Max.

What is the film about?

 Based on J R R Tolkien’s trilogy about hobbits, elves and that one ring. In this episode we maninly discuss the first film; The Fellowship of the Ring.

From imdb: “A meek Hobbit from the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the powerful One Ring and save Middle-earth from the Dark Lord Sauron.

Who does Cate play?

Galadriel, queen of the Elves with her pointed ears.

How is Cate introduced?

Almost immediately in voice over narrating the prologue that explains the creation of the One Ring. Her voice starts it all. Then she appears in all her blond ethereal beauty.

What year did it come out?

2001 the sequels in 2002 and 2003. The Hobbit movies came out in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Box Office: Domestic = $315 MM Int’l = $888MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 92 RT: 91

Topics Discussed:

  • Why were these films so popular?
  • Why Galadriel became one of Blanchett’s most iconic roles. The look, the character and her performance.
  • Well made adventure film especially when compared with mediocre output of current superhero movies. Grand old fashioned entertainment. Why does the adventure and the scale work well?
  • Earnestness done well. How these films wonderfully portray friendship.
  • Ian McKellen’s wonderful and equally iconic performance as Gandalf. How/ why he lost the Oscar?
  • Homoeroticism between Aragon and Boromir. Their relationship has the beats of a rom-com.
  • The many endings of The Return of the King. Despite their abundance they are a nice hang, as if visiting old friends one last time.
  • The metaphor of the ring – what does it mean or stand for? It could mean differnt things depending on interpretation.
  • Cate’s friendship with Ian Mckellen.
  • Deep dive into the “all shall love me and despair‘ scene.
  • Frodo as the ultimate “damsel in distress.”
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Ian McKellen as Gandalf

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Her biggest hit and impact on popular culture. Many remember her as Galdriel. Playing this ethereal icon fed into her own iconic status as a movie star. 

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Kate Winslet in ‘Ammonite’

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.

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What is the film about?

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.

Roderick Murchison (James McArdle)- Charlotte’s clueless husband.

Topics discussed:

  • Why this story now? A continuation of presenting queer woman in mostly historical stories.
  • The chemistry between Winslet and Ronan.
  • The initial marketing made the sex scene the focus – wise decision?
  • Might the film have been more interesting if it was about Mary Anning’s life and work and not this concotted love story.
  • Fiona Shaw’s performance.
  • Comparison to Francis Lee’s previous queer film, God’s Own Country, another queer romance with roots in the lead’s work and their connection to the earth.
  • Austere filmmaking, minimal dialogue, drab costumes and settings -did these choices work?
  • Is the film boring as this humorous article claims?
  • Comparison to Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Rafiki, two other recent films about queer women. Read Ren’s article on both films, and Murtada’s interview with Wanuri Kahiu, the director of Rafiki.
  • Highlights of Winslet’s career: Sense and Sensibility, Jude, Peter Jackson‘s Heavenly Creatures. Her long association with the Oscars, awards narrative and post The Reader shunning.
  • Other queer movies from this season: I Carry You With Me, No Ordinary Man.

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