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

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

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Topics Discussed:

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

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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

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‘Carol’ Part Two: The Queer Cultural Impact

In the second of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the cultural impact the film had on queer people. From memes to comedy routines, Carol was adored. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes writer and film programmer Shayna Maci Warner of Critically Queer, to review the film and talk about its queer legacy.

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The film is available on vudu.

What is the film about?

From Letterboxd:  In 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman. Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith

Who does Cate play? 

Carol, a wealthy NJ woman in 1952 who begins an affair with a young shopgirl that has big ramifications on her life.

How is Cate introduced? 

3 minutes in as Carol and Therese are interrupted at the Plaza..yet it’s that mesmerizing first look in the department that seals the deal we are in for something special.

What year did it come out?

2015

Box Office: Domestic =  $12.7 MM, Int’l =  $27.5MM its cultural impact goes way beyond these numbers.

Critical Response: Metacritic : 94     RT: 94

Topics Discussed:

  • A lesbian film made by queer people: Todd  Haynes, Phyllis Nagy, Christine Vachon, Sarah Paulson. There are some straights too.
  • Desert Hearts (1986) another great lesbian film.
  • The Democratization of access and how it led to Carol‘s cutural impact., see also Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1986).
  • Carol’s seduction of Therese.
  • Cate Blanchett’s heightned portrayal of Carol, playing both the character and the way Therese sees her.
  • The innuendo, the declaring love without saying anything, the drop of the gloves. These  women use everything at their disposal to communicate; except words.
  •  Rooney Mara charts a stingingly real arc for Therese from naivety to maturity.
  • The chemistry between Blanchett and Mara.
  • Blanchett’s ’s chemistry with Sarah Paulson – the only known queer person in the cast.
  • “Mommy’s baby.”
  • The memes; “Harold they are lesbians,” the support group , “gay shaking”  
  • Kathryn Hahn and Rachel Weisz set to the score of Carol.

Other episodes in the Carol series:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Don’t Look Up’

There’s a comet hurtling towards earth and a bunch of movie stars at trying to not look up at it. To discuss Cate Blanchett’s second movie this holiday season -Adam McKay’s climate change satire Don’t Look UpMurtada welcomes critic Boyd van Hoeij from The Film Verdict to the podcast.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.

Who does Cate play?

Bree Evante, a morning news show host determined to put a positive spin on news.

What year did it come out?

2021

Critical Response: Metacritic : 52     RT: 56

Topics Discussed:

  • General impression on Adam McKay and his films.
  • Don’t Look Up is being sold as a cross between Dr Strangelove and Network. Are the similies spot on?
  • The targets of the satire – incompetent governments, media, tech billionaires, populace believing in politics not science – are obvious. There’s a shorthand that makes each character’s real world avatar easy to get hence the laughs but does that undermine the film’s intelligence?
  • Huge cast – Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Ariana Grande, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet… and more? Who’s funny? Who’s annoying? Who’s unmemorable? Who brought the heart and pathos? Who stands out?
  • Leo’s big Peter Finch-like monologue. Does it work?
  • Cate’s look; called “yassified” by the NYTimes. Extreme fembot.
  • Cate and Leo – The Aviator reunion?
  • Cate and Meryl; they are in one scene together but hardly interact. So we fantasy cast them in other projects

Film within context of Cate’s career:

2021 is turning out to be a big year for Blanchett. She has this and Nightmare Alley coming out within days of each other. 

Cate Blanchett in Supporting Parts:

  • Cate came to prominence as a lead in Elizabeth (1998) but has since taken many supporting roles. Is there a link between them? In story? In collaborators?
  • Some of the supporting parts include The Man Who Cried (2000), The Shipping News (2001), Babel (2007), Hanna (2011).

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‘Carol’ Part One: The Love Story

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. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes filmmaker Luke Willis, to discuss all the above as well as rank the best line reading uttered by Blanchett.

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Topics Discussed:

  • Charting the love story in six set pieces 1) meeting at the department store 2) Therese’s visit to Carol’s NJ home 3) the rooftop decision to travel together 4) Waterloo 5) the gun and 6) the finale
  • Cate’s chemistry with Rooney Mara. Playing illicit secret lovers, the screen must smolder if the bond is to be believed. And it does!
  • That opening; that interruption in the first scene- heartbreaking when you consider what’s coming up.
  • Cate’s chemistry with Sarah Paulson -building a physicl language for people who have known each other for years.
  • Favorite line reading of Cate’ and a few fantastic silent moments.
  • Creamed spinach over poached eggs” isn’t that disgusting… that’s what people ate in 1950s? “Dry martini with an olive” though I love. 
  • The movie is so of such rich details, it rewards repeat watching.
  • Therse’s naivety and Carol’s wordliness – the contrast and Therese’s journey to maturity.

Other episodes in the Carol series:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Nightmare Alley’

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

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What is the film about?

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

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

Who does Cate play?

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

How is Cate introduced?

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

Topics discussed:

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

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Announcing The Final Season

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

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

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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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On Cate Blanchett’s Wardrobe in Ocean’s 8

In a snippett from the podcast discussing the costumes worn by Cate Blanchett’s Lou Miller in Ocean’s 8, host Murtada Elfadl and guest Kate Halliwell discuss their favorites and call back to the homoerotic tones in the relationship between the two leads.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Robin Hood’

It’s not Maid Marian but rather Marion Loxely, a more modern take on Robin Hood’s paramour, played by Cate Blanchett in Ridley Scott’s 2010 version of the folklore tale of the legendary outlaw and his merry men. For this discussion Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Teo Bugbee. Logo - Robin Hood 1  Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart Follow along Robin Hood is streaming on STARZ. What is the film about? A more realistic / historical take on the legend of Robin Hood and his merry men. What year did it come out? May 2010 debuted at Cannes. Who does Cate play? Marion Loxley, not Maid Marian. She’s no damsel in distress, she fights, she leads an army.  How is Cate introduced?  Immediately as part of the prologue, the children of the forest raid her barn Box Office: Domestic = $105,269,730  Int’l =$216,400,011 – one of Cate’s most widely seen films. Critical Response: Metacritic : 53. RT: 43. boomhhhgfddsaa Topics discussed:
  • Did we need another Robin Hood? Which one is our favorite?
  • The movie has ideas about birthright and class that are interesting. Robin is first shown as “salt of the earth” soldier with honor, compared to John who’s only talent is being born a prince. But then they give Robin a story about having a great father and “exceptional legacy”? It’s perplexing.
  • The differences between what we know of Robin Hood and this version.
  • Cate’s best scene is when Marion learns of her husband’s death. Max von Sydow is wonderful too receiving the same news. Their deleted scene together is poignant.
  • Does Cate have chemistry with Crowe? He’s on record that she’s his best on screen kiss.
  • Russell Crowe – his 5th and last movie with Scott (Gladiator, A Good Year, American Gangster, Body of Lies) – they clashed on set, his last romantic lead, his last top lining a big budget studio movie.
  • Lea Seydoux and Oscar Isaac’s performances ; their intro with Eileen Atkins – talk about a stacked cast she plays Eleanor of Aquitaine – snaps the movie alive.
  • What have we been watching in quarantine: Paul Mescal in Normal People.
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Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott on the set of Robin Hood
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, Hanna  (2011) and The Hobbit (2012).
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Cate Balnchett and Russell Crowe at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival
Promotional appearances: Cannes 2010. Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart Like? Rate and Review. Have a question? Leave us a comment.