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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Cate Blanchett as Hela in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

In this episode we discuss another Cate Blanchett foray into playing a villian in a big blockbuster; as Hela the goddess of death in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Other topics discussed include the Marvel cinematic universe, who’s the best Chris and Taika Waititi’s singular comedic vision. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl  with guest writer and critic Joi Childs, host of The Color Grade podcast.

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Follow along, the film is streaming on Disney +.

What is the film about?

From IMDB:  Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor must race against time to return to Asgard and stop Ragnarök, the destruction of his world, at the hands of the powerful and ruthless villain Hela.

When did it come out?

November 3, 2017.

Who does Cate play?

Hela, The Asgardian goddess of death. Hela also happens to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first major female villain.

How is Cate introduced?

About 20 minutes into the film, freed from prison after Odin dies. She immediately destroys Thor’s hammer Mjolnir.

Box Office: Domestic = $315,058,289   Int’l = $538,918,837

Metacritic :74                   RT: 93

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Cate’s movement and walk prove how great a physical performer she is

Topics discussed:

  • General impression on Marvel films. Where does Thor: Ragnarok rank?
  • Marvel villains. Have they solved their problem with Hela, Thanos and Killmonger? Or perhaps they never had a villain problem?
  • Cate is usually great when going full camp. Does she go far enough here? Could the script have given here more? What does she bring to the film?
  • Why does Cate play villains in big blockbusters? In addition to Thor she was the heavy in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), Cinderella (2015).
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Blanchett with Waititi on set
  • Irreverent tongue in cheek tone and quirky characters that obviously comes from Taika Waititi. Is this the funniest superhero movie?
  • Who’s our favorite Chris? Candidates are Hemsworth, Pine, Evans and Messina. Never Pratt.
  • Is Hemsworth funny?  He cerainly keeps trying to be.
  • Hela’s look; skin tight jumpsuit with bare shoulders, smoky eye makeup, antlers.
  • Cate’s body movements are to die for; the walk, the hand movements.
  • Thor and Hulk as comedy buddies – does it work?
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Crush that hammer, Cate!

Scenes we liked:

What seemed off:

  • Cate isolated with Karl Urban for most of the film, away from the main action. 

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“Like most of the better Marvel efforts, Thor: Ragnarok feels like the work of a unique sensibility instead of a huddle of brand managers. While the studio’s films demonstrated plenty of comic flair right from the start of its shared-universe experiment, with 2008’s Iron Man, recent efforts have veered too far into bland, jokey listlessness; frivolity has trumped lightheartedness, pandering has replaced irreverence. But in Ragnarok, directed by the Kiwi filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi, the gags are weird enough, and land frequently enough, that it all seems to be coming from someplace — and someone — real.”Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice

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Cate Blanchett as Hela isolated in Asgaard with Karl Urban

“There are bright spots and imaginative touches here and there, including a high-functioning alcoholic mercenary named Valkyrie (the excellent Tessa Thompson) who winds up entangled in the inevitable war for Asgard’s survival. But whether Waititi is cross-cutting distractedly between planets, letting Blanchett channel her inner Jean Marsh or trying to give Idris Elba and his orange contact lenses something to do, he never finds a proper groove or holds your attention for more than minutes at a time. Maybe that’s not a bug, but a feature. The director has set himself the unenviable task of making a movie that never stops trying to wow you, all while seeming too cool and insouciant to care if you’re wowed or not.” Justin Chang, LATimes

Hela appears, a lithe vision in a black and beetle-green unitard. Her makeup looks like what happens to a smoky eye after you’ve slept in it, and she sports a marvelous set of black antlers, as if she’d raided a glam hunting lodge. She’s surely a very busy Norse goddess, because she disappears for long stretches of the movie. Thor: Ragnarok is boyishly eager to reveal Thor’s goofy likability to us, as if it were something we hadn’t yet cottoned to. Directed by the enormously talented New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, it’s well intentioned but ultimately numbing, an instance of fun overkill whose ultimate goal seems to be to put us into a special-effects coma. Not even the occasional inspired touch — like Cate Blanchett as the silky villainess Hela — can save it. It’s at least three movies rolled into one, with maybe half a decent one in there. But like Thor himself, it sure is big. And if you value quantity over quality, it’s a lot of movie for the money.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Time

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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 2 – The Streetcar Allusions

In part 2 of the Blue Jasmine miniseries, we discuss the similarities with Tennessee 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 A Woman Under the Influence to most recently Carey Mulligan in Wildlife.  Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest TV and Film Journalist Candice Frederick.

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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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We explore the relationship between the sisters in this episode

Topics discussed:

  • Blue Jasmine as a riff on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Woody Allen denied the connection, though it’s obvious to anyone who knows the play.
  • The differences between Streetcar and Jasmine:

– No sexual tension between Jasmine / Chilli as there was btw Blanche / Stanley.

– It’s Jasmine’s story, diminished roles for other characters.      

– Modernized Streetcar though themes of class disparity are consistent.

  • Blanche is written and played more vulnerable than Jasmine, though they are both architects of their own destruction.
  •  Cate has played Blanche DuBois in a production directed by Liv Ullman that came to BAM in 2009. 
  • Other actresses who played Blanche (it’s a right of passage) include: Vivien Leigh, Jessica Lange, Rachel Weisz, Gillian Anderson, Nicole Ari Parker.
  • Other performances in the vein of “women unravelling” so many examples from Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence to Carey Mulligan in Wildlife to a whole array of Pedro Almodovar leading ladies particulary in All About My Mother.
  • Blanchett’s performance in relation to the other actors, in particular her chemistry with Sally Hawkins as the “Stella” to her “Blanche”.  
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Blanchett and Hawkins as Blanche/Jasmine and Stella/Ginger

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“This is a film that draws deep from the well of A Streetcar Named Desire. Cate Blanchett, who has played Blanche du Bois onstage, is here cast as an updated version of Tennessee Williams’s anti-heroine, Blanche’s reveries about a faded Southern aristocracy replaced with contemporary delusions bred by life as lived among the 1 percent in Manhattan and the Hamptons. The film begins with Jasmine (née Jeanette) arriving in San Francisco, broke but still flying first class, the dazed victim of a financial scandal involving her former husband. Now homeless, she is forced to rely on the comfort of her estranged sister, Ginger, who is romantically involved with a blue-collar lug named Chili. (Although we see Chili in a wife-beater, he refrains from shouting, Hey, Ginnnnn-gerrrrrr!!!!) Like Streetcar, Blue Jasmine is the story of Jasmine’s further humbling, of upper-class pretension dashing against the rock of working-class earthiness; also like Streetcar, Allen’s work shares its heroine’s snobbery, the director as appalled as Jasmine by Chili’s and Ginger’s gaucheries, their lack of interest in high culture, their aspirational void”Vanity Fair

 

Blanchett, Blanche — the names seem fated for each. Mr. Allen has said that he didn’t see Ms. Blanchett play Tennessee Williams’s most famous creation in Liv Ullmann’s celebrated 2009 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Jasmine’s appalled aside about being forced to move to Brooklyn after being priced out of Manhattan amusingly suggests why he didn’t.) Whatever his inspiration, he has been rummaging around in the classics for decades, so his appropriation of “Streetcar” doesn’t surprise. What does is his reimagining Blanche by way of another figure who changes depending on how you hold her up to the light, Ruth Madoff, the wife of Bernard L. Madoff, the investor turned avatar of a fallen world. It’s a masterly stroke that puts Jasmine’s dissembling into fresh, chilling perspective.

The allusions to “Streetcar” are copious and obvious, and spotting the quotations initially feels like a kind of humorous parlor game, from the French connection that links Blanche and Jasmine’s names to Mr. Allen’s staging of a violent skirmish, which echoes a similar one in Elia Kazan’s film adaptation. Underscoring the resemblances, Jasmine repeatedly explains that “Blue Moon” was playing when she met Hal, memories that evoke the blue piano that, as Williams wrote in “Streetcar,” expresses “the spirit of the life which goes on here.” In the play, Blanche also says that Stanley isn’t the type who goes for jasmine perfume, an aside that carries an accusation.” – Manohla Dargis, NYTimes

ScreenPrism on the similarities between Blue Jasmine and A Streetcar Named Desire.

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Blanchett and Joel Edgerton in Liv Ullman’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire

Reviews of Cate as Blanche on Stage:

“What Ms. Blanchett brings to the character is life itself, a primal survival instinct that keeps her on her feet long after she has been buffeted by blows that would level a heavyweight boxer. Ms. Blanchett’s Blanche is always on the verge of falling apart, yet she keeps summoning the strength to wrestle with a world that insists on pushing her away. Blanche’s burden, in existential terms, becomes ours. And a most particular idiosyncratic creature acquires the universality that is the stuff of tragedy. All the baggage that any “Streetcar” usually travels with has been jettisoned. Ms. Ullmann and Ms. Blanchett have performed the play as if it had never been staged before, with the result that, as a friend of mine put it, “you feel like you’re hearing words you thought you knew pronounced correctly for the first time.” Blessed perhaps with an outsider’s distance on an American cultural monument, Ms. Ullmann and Ms. Blanchett have, first of all, restored Blanche to the center of “Streetcar.” – NYTimes

More on Blue Jasmine:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Heaven’

That heart wrenching closeup. That iconic buzzcut. That performance many think is one of Cate Blanchett’s best. This week Murtada welcomes Kyle Stevens to discuss Heaven (2002), directed by Tom Tykwer.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A woman takes the law into her own hands after police ignore her pleas to arrest the man responsible for her husband’s death, and finds herself not only under arrest for murder but falling in love with an officer.

What year did it come out?

October 2002.

Who does Cate play?

Philippa an English teacher living in Turin, Italy who carries out a vengeful act.

How is Cate introduced?

A few minutes in as Phillippa prepares for her quest.

Box Office: Domestic = $784,399 Int’l = $3,462,690

Metacritic : 68 RT: 74

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Get that buzzcut, Cate

Topics Discussed:

  • Conceived as a  new trilogy: Heaven, Purgatory and  Hell from director Krzysztof Kieslowski and his writing partner, Krzysztof Piesiewicz who made Blue, White and Red.
  • What could’ve been if Kieslowski didn’t pass on before making it?
  • The first few minutes Blanchett body movement looks nothing I’ve ever seen from her. Usually she glides into the frame, here she awkwardly walks, sometimes even waddling. 
  • Beautiful visuals… the look is sometimes breathtaking …
  • Jarring to native Italian speakers? I trust Cate with accents 
  • The plot is facile, easy but is that part of the fable , the unreality of it 
  • The ending – did they ascend literally to heaven?
  •  Ribisi – yay or nay?
  • Revisiting Elizabeth (1998)

Scenes we liked:

  • The interrogation scene. Long, fantastic,  The emotions on her face as she realizes the truth. That perfect fall to the floor as she’s overwhelmed… the polar opposite of getting up from the floor on Carol. Yet both show us how remarkable she is at using her to act and give us beautiful images at the same time.
  • The confession in the church scene specially her reaction to Ribisi saying “I love you.”

What seemed off:

Did the film successfully mix the grounded visceral elements of its story with the dreamy metaphysical ending?

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Cate Blanchett in a scene from Heaven

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  From all the early 2000s films she made, this is the only one remembered fondly.

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

  • This was a Miramax release in the year of The Hours, Gangs of New York and Chicago – so we assume it got lost in the shuffle.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“In ”Heaven” the Australian dramatic chameleon Cate Blanchett gives the most compelling screen performance of her career as a principled terrorist whose desperate act of violence tragically backfires, leaving her broken and reeling with despair and self-loathing.

As her character, Philippa, a recently widowed young English teacher living in Turin, Italy, disintegrates, Ms. Blanchett registers a wrenching series of quick emotional changes. Upon learning that her carefully plotted act of vigilantism has resulted in the deaths of innocent people, her defiance gives way in seconds to shock, then to horror, then to self-realization so painful that she doubles up and crumples onto the floor, unconscious.

Although Ms. Blanchett’s face has always registered emotion with a mercurial fluidity, the immediacy of feeling she conveys in ”Heaven” is astonishing. It also allows her to carry off the seemingly impossible feat of making us care passionately about a woman who has committed an unforgivable crime.” – Stephen Holden, NY Times.

“Blanchett’s performance confirms her power once again. She never goes for an effect here, never protects herself, just plays the character straight ahead as a woman forced by grief and rage into a rash action, and then living with the consequences.” – Roger Ebert

Promotional work:

 

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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 ‘Documentary Now’ / ‘Manifesto’

We are going avant garde because “art is supposed to be radical.” Murtada welcomes Shelley Farmer to discuss Waiting for the Artist (2019), an episode of Documentary Now and the film Manifesto (2017) which started as an art installation.

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Documentary Now: Waiting for The Artist

Follow along, Blanchett’s episode is available on Netflix.

What is the film about?

An episode of the third season of Documentary Now inspired by the Marina Abramovic doc The Artist is Present. From imdb: A performance artist returns to her native Hungary for a career retrospective.

What is Documentary Now? 

An American mockumentary television series, created by Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and Rhys Thomas. The series spoofs celebrated documentary films by parodying the style of each documentary with a similar, but fictitious, subject. Notable episodes include spoofs of Grey Gardens, The Thin Blue Line and Company Original Cast Album.

What year did it come out?

 2019

Who does Cate play?

 Izabella Barta, a take on Marina Abramovic.

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Topics discussed:

  • Documentary Now the series, what they are good at, memorable episodes, why is it a must see?
  • Mimicry, she’s an ace after all she played both Bob Dylan and Katharine Hepburn so to take to this absurd level is fun.
  • Adding absurdity to all the re-creations of Marina Abramovic, this a spoof of her 2012 documentary The Artist is Present.
  • This is a fun absurd register that she doesn’t play with in her films though she has played ridiculous (Crystal Skull, Cinderella).

Memorable quotes:

  • “I am human”
  • “Got pain in my uterus already”
  • “It’s supposed to be radical”

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What reviews said about Cate:

“There’s a genuine, and familiar, tragedy underneath Blanchett’s Slavic accent, and she doesn’t play the part for laughs. There’s humor in the episode, but it’s the humor of recognition, not release. Even if it’s fiction, “Waiting for the Artist” still feels like it’s documenting something real.” – Sam Adams, Slate

“The episode is written by Seth Meyers, and its brilliance lies in how tenderly both he and Blanchett approach Barta, a woman whose installations have included getting strangers to pass her toilet paper and pretending to be a cat. Performance art is so ripe for parody that it almost resists it. But Meyers, whether accidentally or not, finds some real meaning in Barta’s work, which attempts to expose the absurd suffering of the human condition.” – Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Fun project that shows she can be in on the joke playing off her persona as a great actress.

Other references:

Behind the scenes of the episode @ IndieWire

Recently Cate and Marina spent time together in London.

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MANIFESTO

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What is the film about?

Official Synopsis: Manifesto pays homage to the tradition and literary beauty of artistic manifestos, ultimately questioning the role of the artist in society today. Performing these ‘new manifestos’ as a contemporary call to action while inhabiting thirteen different personas, Academy Award winner-Cate Blanchett imbues new dramatic life into both famous and lesser-known words in unexpected contexts. Details about the 12 manifestos here.

Follow aong, Manifesto is available on Amazon Prime.

What year did it come out?

the installation came out in 2015, the film in 2017.

Who does Cate play?

13 characters reciting 12 manifestos.

 Metacritic : 72. RT: 76

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Topics to discuss:

  • Does it work as a movie? What makes it a movie if it is? Is it entertaining.
  • The installation which I saw in NY at the Park Avenue Armory
  • You get 13 Cate performances in 90 minutes. Heaven or overkill?
  • The makeup and hair artists are standouts
  • The conception of the characters – a trick to play with an actor’s outside attributes as opposed to soul. Fits the film but what does it add to Blanchett’s reputation?
  • She gets to detail so many little gestures in building her characters, as a gestural actor it must have been wonderful to play 
  • Her performance as Bob Dylan influenced the conception of this project
  • Is it navel gazing? People who consider themselves artists making a project about artistic manifestos.
  • Her husband and children appear in the “Pop Art’ segment
  • Released as a film to pay for the installation

Scenes we liked

  • “Dada is still shit, but from now on we want to shit in different colors.”
  • When she makes a little Cate doll.
  • Norma Desmond come to life as the choreographer
  • “When discourse is opinion,” “when you don’t have to know anything yet you think you know everything” drag EVERYONE Cate. The film comes to life here.

(video edited by Shayma)

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Bolsters her reputation as a chameleon without any expectations that may come with a “regular” film.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

“The surprise here is that Rosefeldt has managed to deliver an intellectually-charged, cheeky, and very funny film that feels unruly and expansive in spite of its tight 12-day shooting schedule and its focus on just one performer. Blanchett has no fear as a performer, and she has such enormous appetite for acting that she rips into each of the characters she is playing in “Manifesto” as if she were hungrily stripping meat off of chicken legs and then hurling the bones over her shoulder. She is such an acting prodigy that she needs to be properly challenged, and “Manifesto” is such a challenging and unlikely project that Blanchett uses her talent as she never has before, splashing it all over the screen and making bold gestures that only become physically overdone when she plays an Eastern European choreographer in a turban.” – Dan Callahan, The Wrap.

“There’s an apocryphal story about turn-of-the-century theater queen Sarah Bernhardt reading the phone book so emotionally that the audience was left weeping. That’s what Blanchett is doing here. She adds a human element. She can turn anything into art. Even artistic navel-gazing.” – David Fear, Rolling Stone

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Ocean’s 8 and the Peak of Cate Blanchett’s Celebrity

This week Murtada welcomes Kate Halliwell, writer for The Ringer and host of the  Tea Time podcast to discuss Ocean’s 8 and the period post Carol (2015) which they both consider to be Blanchett’s peak celebrity and pop culture power.

Click to Listen:

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Follow along the film is streaming  on HBO Max.

What is the film about?

From imdb: Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.

What year did it come out?

2018

Who does Cate play?

 Lou Miller, second in command to Debbie Miller. The Pitt to Bullock’s Clooney. Butch femme, loves motorcycles and wears a mean jumpsuit and leather pants.

How is Cate introduced? 

6 minutes in tampering with the vodka while Judge Judy plays in the background. 

 Box Office: Domestic = $140,218,711 Int’l = $ 157,500,000

Metacritic : 61 RT: 69

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Topics discussed:

1- Ocean’s 8

  • BDE – was that created just to describe Cate’s energy in this film?
  • The paparazzi photos during shooting – Cate and Rihanna in Central Park, that cute dog dancing – were better than the movie!
  • Hustlers is the movie we hoped Ocean’s 8 would be
  • Who’s the mvp : Anne Hathaway or Cate’s wardrobe? 
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Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett in Ocean’s 8
  • Cate’s wardrobe; props to the costume designer Sarah Edwards for getting it right and perhaps reflecting an edgier more downtown side of Cate’s IRL aesthetic.
  • The chemistry between Cate and Sandra. 
  • What scenes did we like? What seemed off? 
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Blanchett, Awkwafina, Paulson, Hathaway, Bullock, Kaling, Bonham Carter and Rihanna at the film’s New York premiere June 2018

2- Cate’s post Carol’s celebrity power

  • The memes, the devotion, the hive, the conspiracy theories… it’s a movement.
  • Harold they’re lesbians!
  • Cate as a fashion icon, how she understands the red carpet is performance why she gets many abuzz when she glides down a carpet or releases a magazine photo shoot.
  • What is the peak pop culture moment for Cate post 2015?
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Kristen Stewart eyeballing Cate Blanchett at the Jury photo call at the Cannes Film Festival May 2018

1) the Carol press tour late 2015 into 2016

2) Presiding over the Jury at Cannes May 2018

3) The Ocean’s 8 press tour (that Today Show interview with Sarah Paulson, the many suits she wore to all the press events) May-June 2018

4) Lip-synching at a drag show in NYC February 2017 to Dusty Springfield’s You Don’t Own Me

5) Even fellow celebrities are stans; from Gillian Anderson to Val Kilmer

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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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What is the film about?

From imdb: Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences. Follow along by streaming on HBO Max.

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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