‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’

Well the time has come. This week we have a hurricane in us and we are going to command the wind. It’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), the movie that contains that most famous monologue in Cate Blanchett’s filmography. We discuss the film, that iconic scene and delve into that year’s best actress Oscar competition. Plus we nominate younger actors whose screen work remind us of Blanchett. For this conversation, Murtada Elfadl welcomes back Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

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Follow along the film is available on Amazon prime.

What is the film about?

From imdb: “A mature Queen Elizabeth endures multiple crises late in her reign including court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada, and romantic disappointments.” Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Clive Owen, Samantha Morton, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, and in a tiny part as an assassin Eddie Redmayne (in 2015 Blanchett presents Redmayne with his Oscar). 

What year did it come out?

2007.

Who does Cate play?

Duh – top billed.  

Reception:

Box Office: Domestic = $16MM, Int’l = $59MM.

Metacritic: 45 RT: 34, definitely not a stellar reception.

Topics Discussed:

  • Starts in1585 and charts the latter years of Elizabeth I reign. Still plays with marriage as one of the main plots. As with the previous film, it takes the broad strokes of history to tell its story. There’s scant historical accuracy.
  • Love when Cate is at the center of the filmIn this film she either is at the center or the scene is about talking about her.
  • Unlike the first movie, she brings humor to this performance. Sometimes commenting n the script’s simplistic notions of female power – like when she repeats the line ”men have needs.”
  • What is the thesis of this film? It tries to say something about the loneliness of power, about aging… but what exactly? It’s all muddled.
  • Unlike the first film Elizabeth (1998), which was celebrated for its visceral athletic, this one was dismissed as another middling costume drama.
  • Works best as a series of scenes that are entertaining… and not always for reasons that the creaters intended. 
  • Fertile ground for upcoming talent. Eddie Redmayne, Abbie Cornish .. like Kelly McDonald and Emily Mortimer in the first film.
  • Elizabeth literally imagines Bess as her young self. Did they get the casting right? Who of the younger actors remind us of Blanchett?
  • Did Elizabeth believe in astrology? 
  • The “I have a hurricane in me” starts at 38. We discuss why this scene ebdures.
  • Other scenes to discuss:
    1. The speech at Tilbury before going off to fight the Spanish armada.
    2. Flirting with Clive Owen.
    3. Dismissing the attentions of the Austrian duke… back to my note above about bringing humor to the performance.
  • Reprising a signature role is not always successful. See Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment (1983) / The Evening Star (1996). Though it worked for Paul Newman in The Hustler (1961) / The Color of Money (1986). Other examples include Peter O’Toole as another monarch in Beckett (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968).

Costumes we loved:

Looks amazing in cream white in the assasination scene. Intricate eye catching design of most of Elizabeth’s costumes. Though I found many comments in my research that they were not historically accurate. Doesn’t matter, they were noticeable. 

The film must’ve won the Oscar because of the 360 shot of Elizabet’s costume after she wins the war.It’s main competition was Atonement which everybody expected to win because of Keira Knightley’s iconic green dress.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Released the same year as I’m Not There; she got a lot of notices about her range, “she can play both Elizabeth and Bob Dylan,” which added to her allure as the “best of her generation.”

Awards:  Won Oscar for costume design, nominated for best actress at all the usual awards ceremonies. For such a critically derided film, Blanchett didn’t miss out on any nomination.

Other best actress nominees:

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose – the winner.  

Julie Christie, Away from Her. 

Elliott Page, Juno.

Laura Linney, The Savages – surprise nominee.

Missing out – Angelina Jolie A Mighty Heart, Keira Knightley Atonement, Amy Adams Enchanted, Tang Wei Lust and Caution.

Cate gave us two priceless reaction shots while best actress was presented at the Oscars:

1) revulsion at her “command the wind” clip, and 2) elation at Cotillard’s win.

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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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