That Cate Blanchett Self Slap in Mrs. America

In a snippet from the latest podcast we talk about Cate Blanchett and that self slap from episode 5 of Mrs. America. 

Follow along Mrs. America is streaming on Hulu. Then listen to our recaps of all 9 episodes.

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Cate Blanchett in “Mrs. America’ Recaps

The podcast will be back later in the summer. In the meantime here are our reviews of Mrs. America.

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Episodes 1-3 with Tayler Montague

We are going back to the early 1970s to recap the first three episodes of Cate Blanchett’s first major TV role in the FX on Hulu show, Mrs America as polarizing right wing figure Phyllis Schalfly. We discuss her performance, the all star cast, the costumes and review the show. Murtada’s guest is  writer and filmmaker Tayler Montague.

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Cate Blanchett as Schlafly with Ben Rosenfield as her gay son John Schlafly

Episodes 4 & 5 with Casey Mink

In our review of episodes 4 and 5 we talk about Betty Freidan (Tracey Ullman) and Brenda Feigen Fasteau (Ari Graynor) debating Phyllis Schlafly (Blanchett). We also discuss talk Blanchett’s self slap, the fractions in the Feminist Movement, the “Tokenism” scene and many other topics. Murtada’s guest is staff writer at BackstageCasey Mink.

MRS. AMERICA -- Pictured: Bria Henderson as Margaret Sloan. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX

Episodes 6 & 7 with Andy Stewart plus an interview with cast member Bria Samoné Henderson

This time we tackle episodes 6 and 7 of the series about Jill Ruckelshaus played by Elizabeth Banks and Bella Abzug played by Margo Martindale. Also in this episode an interview with Bria Samoné Henderson who plays activist Margaret Sloan on the show. Murtada’s guest is Andy Stewart.

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Episodes 8 & 9 with Tayler Montague

To review the last two episodes of Mrs. America  Murtada Elfadl welcomes back guest writer and filmmaker Tayler Montague. The TV miniseries about the fight to ratify the equal rights amendment in the 1970s is created by Dahvi Waller and stars Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, the right wing polarizing organizer. 

If you are enjoying the podcast buy Murtada a cup of coffee, or rate and review.

Follow along the show is streaming on Hulu.

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The faces that Blanchett makes on this show!

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‘Elizabeth’ and the 1998 Oscar for Best Actress

For the 2nd season finale of the podcast, we return to 1998. Elizabeth was Cate Blanchett’s international breakout and the first time many people saw her on screen. Hence it deserves a revisit. To discuss the film again, along with Blanchett’s first Academy Award nomination and the 1998 best actress Oscar race, Murtada Elfadl welcomes Izzy from Be Kind Rewind Logo - Lizzy copy Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart What is the film about? From imdb: The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch. Directed by Shekar Kapur; also starring Richard Attenborough, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Emily Mortimer, Kelly McDonald. What year did it come out? 1998. Who does Cate play? Duh – top billed.  How is Cate introduced? 7 Minutes in, dancing in a field among her ladies in waiting. Box Office: Domestic = $30,082,699 (36.6%), Int’l = $52,067,943 (63.4%).
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Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I
Topics Discussed:
  • Why was this performance so well received? It was considered such an arrival of a major star. How much is the role? How much is Cate? She charts a whole journey and character arc from young woman to monarch to stateswoman to almost deity, getting the chance to play innocent, cunning, in love, betrayed; the whole gamut of emotions.
  • So many actresses played this part: Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Anne-Marie Duff, Helen Mirren and Margot Robbie. Why is it so attractive to storytellers?
  • What is the Cate moment that sealed her stardom and Oscar nomination? Basically what’s this film “I have a hurricane in me” from Elizabeth: The Golden Age?
    • Ominously surrounded by men as Elizabeth is interrogated in the tower early on the film. Vacillating between fear and trying to hold it together while answering a barrage of questions.
    • Her scene with Kathy Burke as Mary “I see you are a consummate actress.” 
    • Preparing and delivering her speech to the bishops.
    • Lamenting the defeat of her troops in Scotland by Mary of Guise.
    • The finale “I’ve become a virgin.
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Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. Both won Golden Globes, Paltrow won the Oscar
Other 1998 Oscar Best Actress Nominees: Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love – the winner. She and Cate both won at Golden Globes. Meryl Streep, One True Thing – Nomination #11 out of 21. Only nomination for film. Great monologue, “I’m tired of being shushed.” Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station– won best actress at the Berlinale, LAFCA and NBR. She and Cate were runners up to Ally Sheedy (High Art) at NSFC. Runner up to Cameron Diaz (There’s Something About Mary) at NYFCC. This tweet is funny! Emily Watson, Hillary and Jackie – forgotten film, more of an afterglow nomination 2 years after Breaking the Waves. Interesting career trajectory with Blanchett as she was considered for Elizabeth.
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The other 1998 Oscar nominees were Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station, Meryl Streep in One True Thing and Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie
Did Paltrow win because she played a romantic lead, something academy members are prone to award —Roman Holiday, Moonstruck—while Blanchett was playing a more traditionally male role as a monarch? More from Murtada and Izzy: Elizabeth was previously discussed on the podcast. Don’t miss Be Kind Rewind on how Shakespeare in Love won its Oscars. Note on the headline: This Oscar year is sometimes referred to as “the 1999 Oscars” since the ceremony took place in March of 1999. However I prefer using the year of the film’s release, 1998.  Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart Like? Rate and Review. Have a question? Leave us a comment.

Cate Blanchett in ‘Mrs. America 8-9’ Podcast Recap

To review the last two episodes of Mrs. America  Murtada Elfadl welcomes back guest writer and filmmaker Tayler Montague. The TV miniseries about the fight to ratify the equal rights amendment in the 1970s is created by Dahvi Waller and stars Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, the right wing polarizing organizer.  Logo - Mrs America Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart Follow along Mrs. America is streaming on Hulu. What is the show about? Official Synopsis: “Mrs. America tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the unexpected backlash led by a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, aka “the sweetheart of the silent majority.”  mrs_am_108-3738r Ep 8 “Houston” Official Synopsis: “Alice, Rosemary and Pamela cross into enemy territory at the National Women’s Conference in Houston, where they come face-to-face with Feminist leaders.” Written by Dahvi Waller; Directed by Janicza Bravo (Zola). Screen Shot 2020-05-27 at 7.05.29 AM Ep 9 “Reagan” Official Synopsis: “Gloria, Bella and Jill put pressure on the White House to act on their proposals from the National Women’s Conference. Phyllis prepares to leverage her political victories as the 1980 presidential election draws near.” Written by Dahvi Waller & Joshua Allen Griffith; Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck.  Who does Cate play? Phyllis Schlafly. Critical Response: Metacritic : 87  RT: 95 Topics discussed: Houston Ep 8 “Houston”
  • This is a stand-alone ep different in POV and style, with obvious allusions to Alice Through the Looking Glass.
  • “We shall overcome” scene – very moving. Loved seeing all the women we spent time with during the series come together.
  • Sarah Pauson’s performance and Alice’s journey – too tidy? Just right? Mix of fantasy and reality? Certainly the writers, by making her a composite character, allowed themselves the freedom to go where they couldn’t with the historical characters.
  • There’s a queer undertone to the way Alice talks about Phyllis. 
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  • Two little Feminists skit; Melanie Lynskey is so hilarious as Rosemary.
  • Men are awful – is what i was thinking as I watched how Carter treated the Women’s Movement in 1979.
  • “I used to feel scared,” a fantastic ending to the Alice story.
  • In the elevator as Phyllis knows she has “arrived,” Cate gives us that half satisfied smile. The inverse of the end of Carol.
  • Who won in the end in the battle of Phyllis vs, 2nd wave feminists and what did they win. Does the show make it clear? The show ends with both sides losing.
  • The final shot.
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  • Check in with what we put the show “on notice” about:
    • On race; they showed Phyllis reaching out to the Klan. In this ep there’s a call back to her dependence on her maid, Willie (Novie Edwards).
    • Did we get enough of the main players; Steinem, Abzug and Chisolm and their contributions?
    • What about the secondary characters e.g. Flo Kennedy and Margaret Sloan-Hunter?
  • We rate the show and performances.
Previously on the podcast: Mrs. America 1-3 Mrs. America 4 & 5 Mrs. America 6 & 7 and interview with Bria Samoné Henderson. Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart Like? Rate and Review. Have a question? Leave us a comment.

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 . logo-hanna Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /   iHeart Follow along Hanna is streaming on HBO / HBO Max. 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 which is streaming 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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‘Mrs. America 6-7’ Podcast Recap and interview with Bria Samoné Henderson

We continue recaping and reviewing Hulu’s Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett. This week we will tackle episodes 6 and 7 of the series about Jill Ruckelshaus played by Elizabeth Banks and Bella Abzug played by Margo Martindale. Also in this episode an interview with Bria Samoné Henderson who plays activist Margaret Sloan on the show. Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest Andy Stewart.

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Follow along Mrs. America is streaming on Hulu

What is the show about?

Official Synopsis: “Mrs. America tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the unexpected backlash led by a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, aka “the sweetheart of the silent majority.” Through the eyes of the women of the era – both Schlafly and second wave feminists Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Jill Ruckelshaus – the series explores how one of the toughest battlegrounds in the culture wars of the 70s helped give rise to the Moral Majority and forever shifted the political landscape.”

Who does Cate play? Phyllis Schlafly.

Critical Response: Metacritic : 87  RT: 95

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Ep 6 “Jill”

Official Synopsis:With a pro-ERA Republican in the White House, Phyllis protests her own party, which puts her in conflict with Republican Feminist leader, Jill Ruckelshaus. Written by Sharon Hoffman; Directed by Laure de Clermont Tonnere (The Mustang).

Ep 7 “Bella”

Official Synopsis: “Bella is put in charge of the first ever government-funded National Women’s Conference. Phyllis and her women clash over how to best disrupt the conference.” Written by Micah Schraft; Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Captain Marvel).

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Topics Discussed:

  • These two episodes show Phyllis going to the extreme right – the evangelicals, pro-life extremists – to expand base and get into the inner echelons of power.
  • At the end of episode 6 Jill is out and Phyllis is in, the new extreme wing of the republican party wins. Again the show makes the parallels to our political situation today which is one of its main themes.
  • The parallels between Bella and Phyllis as they are both trying to hold onto power, but go in different directions. Bella wants to be seen again as radical and Phyllis is willing to do anything to win even working with the Ku Klux Klan.
  • Cate’s performance – the many reactions / faces she makes. 
  • The performances of Margo Martindale and Elizabeth Banks as well as Melanie Lynskey.
  • The queer characters and themes and how they are integrated into the series’ main themes.
  • The series’ Emmy chances and who might be singled out from the supporting cast.

Interview with Bria Samoné Henderson who plays activist and former Ms. Magazine editor Margaret Sloan. The interview starts at 39:45 if you’d like to jump ahead.

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Previously on the podcast:

Mrs. America 1-3

Mrs. America 4 & 5

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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.

If you are enjoying the podcast buy Murtada a cup of coffee, or rate and review the show.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Mrs. America 4-5’ Podcast Recap

We continue recaping and reviewing Hulu’s Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett. This week we tackle episodes 4 and 5 dealing with Betty Freidan (Tracey Ullman) and Brenda Feigen Fasteau (Ari Graynor) debating Phyllis Schlafly (Blanchett). Hosted by Murtada Elfadl with guest staff writer at Backstage, Casey Mink.

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Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts   /   Stitcher   /  Spotify  /  Google /   iHeart

What is the show about?

Official Synopsis: “Mrs. America tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and the unexpected backlash led by a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, aka “the sweetheart of the silent majority.” Through the eyes of the women of the era – both Schlafly and second wave feminists Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Jill Ruckelshaus – the series explores how one of the toughest battlegrounds in the culture wars of the 70s helped give rise to the Moral Majority and forever shifted the political landscape.

Who does Cate play?

Phyllis Schlafly.

Critical Response: Metacritic : 87  RT: 95

Topics discussed:

Betty
Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan

Ep 4 – Betty

Official Synopsis: “As Stop ERA grows and gains media attention, Betty Friedan, the mother of the Feminist movement, makes it her mission to take down Phyllis.” Written by Boo Killebrew; Directed by Amma Asante (Belle, A United Kingdom).

  • The parallels between the personal lives of Betty and Phyllis showing them both with their daughters. Great scene with Betty’s daughter and her ex-husband’s new wife.
  • The ending – Gloria thanking Betty for her leadership – brought me to tears. This show has great episode endings.
  • The race question comes up again – John Birch Society “I think you should just keep that to yourself.” 
  • ‘Tokenism ” scene with Bria Samoné Henderson as Maragaret Sloan.
  • Episode brings into forefront the fractions in the women’s movement both between Betty and Bella/Gloria and within the black women’s movement as evidened by the Sundays at Flo’s scene.
  • Phyllis’ prep scene with her husband.

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Ari Grayor as Brenda Feigan Fasteau with Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem

Ep 5 – Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc

Official Synopsis: “Phyllis and Fred Schlafly debate superstar Feminist couple Brenda and Marc Feigan-Fasteau on television.” Written by Micah Schraft & April Shih; Directed by Laure de Clermont Tonnere (The Mustang). 

  • The title is homage to the film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice which closed also with “What the World Needs Now.”
  • The debate scene led to a big fraction in the Schlafly’s marriage. Phyllis does exactly what she wants even after being called submissive on national TV.
  • Phyllis actually wins by the end since Illinois doesn’t ratify the ERA yet the show subtly handles that. Couple that with Fred saying many people don’t want the ERA to pass, showing us Phyllis as what Brenda called her, a puppet for special interests.
  • The show weaves in different depictions of marriage – Phyllis and Fred, Brenda and Marc and Gloria and Franklin – to comment on the institution.
  • The scene with Phyllis and her son “you have to be careful”.

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John Slattery and Cate Blanchett as Fred and Phyllis Schlafly

General:

  • These two episodes can be subtitled “The Lavendar Menace” as there are many queer themes and characters. John Schlafly, Margaret Sloan, Brenda Feigan Fasteau, Jules the photographer.
  • Cate’s performance – the faces she makes after Fred calls her submissive on TV. Gestural acting bonanza; finger through teeth, slapping herself. 
  • Tracey Ullman and Ari Graynor performances.
  • The show doesn’t tell all the stories, we have to wikipedia some info e.g.“Where’s Kate Millet now?”
  • The show has yet to comment on Gloria having a Black boyfriend; they are presented as a couple with nary a comment from another character or them talking about it. Is it progress or avoidance?
  • Casey would like to see Cate on stage with Katrina Lenk, we briefly discuss Lenk’s sublime recent rendition of Stephen Sondheim “Johanna.”

Reviews of Episodes 1 through 3 are also available.

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Ari Graynor and Adam Brody as Brenda Feigan Fasteau and Mark Feigan Fasteau

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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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Cate Blanchett in ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’

We are going big this week. Big movie. Big performance. Murtada welcomes Gavin Mevius, co-host of The Mixed Reviews Podcast to discuss Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

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Follow along, the film is streaming on Netflix.

What is the film about?

 From imdb: In 1957, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. is called back into action and becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls.

When did it come out?

May 2008

Who does Cate play?

Dr Irina Spalko; a doctor, colonel, and the primary antagonist of the film. She is a psychic, as well as a very skilled fencer and combatant. Called “Stalin’s fair haired girl” by one of the characters.

How is Cate introduced? 

 5 minutes in; first a commanding voice then cutaway to her in sunglasses emerging from car. As usual with Cate it’s a movie star entrance.

Box Office: Domestic = $317,101,119          Int’l = $469,534,914

Metacritic : 65. RT: 78.

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Topics discussed:

  • What did we think of the first 3 Indiana Jones movies? Why was this one so indifferently and or negatively received?
  • Steven Spielberg – general yay or nay? Fave films?
  • A ridiculous, campy over the top stylized performance. Everything heightened visually (the gray jumpsuit, the robotic body movements, the black bob), sonically (accent, clipped tones) – does it work?
  • Cate gets asked to play villains in big movies – Hana (2010), Cinderella (2015), Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Why? 
  • Lovely to see Karen Allen, remember Starman (1983)?
  • A lot of unnecessary exposition of backstory – just get to the action. And Ford is leaning into old professor delivery which doesn’t enliven the scenes.
  • The snakes, scorpions, quick sands, everyone’s phobias are there. Are they fun? Did we miss these from the other movies?
  • Ford and Allen trying Tracy / Hepburn – does it work?
  • Ridiculous refigerator scene. But it sets the tone and we now know what to do in a nuclear apocalypse.

“What people really jumped at was Indy climbing into a refrigerator and getting blown into the sky by an atom-bomb blast. Blame me. Don’t blame George. That was my silly idea. People stopped saying ‘jump the shark.’ They now say, ‘nuked the fridge.’ I’m proud of that. I’m glad I was able to bring that into popular culture.” – Spielberg to CNN.

  • Who wields the sword best? Shia really had no chance
  • Why the disdain for this performance? Was the film not exciting enough? Was there Cate fatigue at the time? That ludicrous death scene? 

Memorable quotes:

  • “You’re a teacher?” “Only part time”
  • “You fight like a young man. Eager to begin, quick to finish”
  • “Tell me I’m ready, I want to know”

Costumes we loved?

Well it’s just the one; an all -pupose gray jumpsuit.

Cate+Blanchett+Harrison+Ford+Cannes+Indiana+9jo5gqB5QuMl
Lucas, Spielberg, Ford and Blanchett at the Cannes Film Festival May 2008

Scenes we liked:

The car chase in the forest with the sword fighting – exciting.

What seemed off:

  • Is the action exciting? What NY Magazine called “the setups are wittier than the payoffs.”
  • The plot is ridiculous as befits this type of movie, but it’s too ridiculous and unnecessarily dense and confusing.

Film within context of Cate’s career

This film was announced after Cate revealed her break with movies to run the Sydney Theater Company.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

The bad guys this time are cold war Reds first seen poking around an American military base and led by Irina Spalko. A caricature given crude, playful life by Cate Blanchett, Irina owes more than a little to Rosa Klebb, the pint-size Soviet operative played by Lotte Lenya, who took on James Bond in “From Russia With Love.”

Dressed in gray coveralls, her hair bobbed and Slavic accent slipping and sliding as far south as Australia, Ms. Blanchett takes to her role with brio, snapping her black gloves and all but clicking her black boots like one of those cartoon Nazis that traipse through earlier Indy films. She’s pretty much a hoot, the life of an otherwise drearily familiar party.Manohla Dargis, NYTimes

“Harrison Ford used to lighten his clenched persona with goofy shrugs that said, “I can only go so far with this hero stuff.” But the years have dried him out; he seems like a peevish movie star who’s too self-centered to interact. When he’s supposed to realize that Marion is the love of his life, he looks as if he’s gritting his teeth to kiss her. Blanchett—a great art object, her satin skin taut over those Asiatic cheekbones—hits the same note with diminishing returns. How many variations are there of “We meet again, Dr. Jones?”  David Edelstein, New York Magazine

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Irina Spalko, played by Blanchett with the severe demeanor of Cyd Charisse’s Ninotchka in the 1957 MGM musical Silk Stockings and the black bob Charisse sports in The Band Wagon.”- Richard Corliss, Time.

“Blanchett, who has absolutely no idea what to do with her role: She’s equal parts evil and incompetent, and she’s the least dangerous villain Indiana Jones has ever faced. Turns out that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are far more threatening foes.”The Village Voice

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

  • Only collaboration with Spielberg, Ford, Labeouf and Allen.
  • Kathleen Kennedy – current overlord of Star Wars – produced this and Benjamin Button, released in the same year.

Promotional appearances:

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