A Sunday with Dame Judi Dench

We have a special episode this week, a companion to our discussion last week of Notes on a Scandal. We visit with the Dame, Judi Dench. We discuss her film career, with deep dives into an early entry A Room With a View (1986) and the film that launched her film stardom Mrs. Brown (1997). Returning for this conversation with our host Murtada Elfadl is writer and critic Teo Bugbee.

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Topics Discussed:

  • General impression of the Dame, which performances do we enjoy, what does she bring to screen?
  • Our first time watching Judi Dench at the movies – Shakespeare in Love (1998). She won an Oscar playing Elizabeth I the same year Cate did in Elizabeth.
Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in A Room with a View (1986)
  • The duet with another Dame, Maggie Smith in A Room with a View.
  • Mrs. Brown (1997) was her big breakout film. It was originally intended as a TV movie until a certain producer was impressed and bought it for theaters.
Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Dench, Smith and Bill Nighy in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
  • Other notable screen roles include Iris, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Philomena, Skyfall.
  • We play a game: Who said it, Cate or Judi?
  • Briefly touch ob other career highlights from her early theater work – her Lady Macbeth (1976) is considered the standard, to the current iteration; tik tok sensation.

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Cate Blanchett in ‘The Missing’

Cate Blanchett: Medicine Woman. She’s a healer in 1880s New Mexico in Ron Howard’s Western The Missing (2003). We discuss the film, the performances of Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones and Evan Rachel Wood. Plus we look into Howard’s filmography including his latest Hillbilly Elegy (2020), while admitting that we can’t find clues there to what he’s obssessed with as a filmmaker. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes back writer and critic Andrew Kendall, some of Andrew’s film writing can be found here.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: In 1885 New Mexico, a frontier medicine woman forms an uneasy alliance with her estranged father when her daughter is kidnapped by an Apache brujo. Shades of The Searchers (1956). Also starring Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd and Aaron Eckhart.

What year did it come out?

November 2003

Who does Cate play?

Magdalena (Maggie) Gilkeson, a healer in the 1880s American west who has a complicated relationship with her father. It’s Dr. Blanchett, Medicine Woman. 

How is Cate introduced?

Immediately sitting in the commode. So Frances McDormand in Nomadland (2020) was not the first current star to be shown defecating in her movie.


Box Office: Domestic = $27M Int’l = $11. Metacritic : 55. RT: 58.

Topics discussed: The Missing

  • Blanchett and Jones are matched well as two idiosyncratic people. There’s a symbiosis to their performances as stubborn loners; believable as father and daughter.
  • The film is well shot, well acted with an interesting story… why doesn’t it work? Competent though there’s nothing special about it – does that make the quintessential Ron Howard movie?
  • Too many rescue missions, gunfights…it becomes tedious… action not exciting.
  • Evan Rachel Wood as a truly stupid colonizer and Elisabeth Moss in a tiny part.
  • Aaron Eckhart supporting Oscar winning women; see also Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (2000) and Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole (2010). Prefer that to his current iteration as a sometimes action star (the …Has Fallen movies).

Topics Discussed: Ron Howard

  • What do we think of his filmography? What kind of director is he – beyond a competent studio filmmaker? His filmography offers scant detail to what he’s obsessed with.
  • This was his follow to the Oscar winning success of A Beautiful Mind (2001) and the mega box office of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) i.e. he could do what he wanted and he chose this.
  • Murtada chooses Apollo 13 (1995) as his best movie, Andrew favors Parenthood (1989)- do they recall any of his other films? What made that successful?
  • Thoughts on latest, Hillbilly Elegy.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

Came out at the tail end of the years where she was experimenting with different genres (discussed previously The Gift, The Man Who Cried) and different directors without lasting impact. The Aviator comes a year later and starts a few years of an amazing run till 2008 when she leaves film to run the Sydney Theater Company. 

What reviews said of film / Cate:

As for Blanchett, she’s simply wonderful. She has played her share of queenly figures, but her acting essence is, emotionally speaking, plain-Jane. She’s a straight shooter, with an uncanny ability to find a character’s spine and communicate it without fuss or feathers.”- Richard Schickel, Time.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette

We kickoff the 3rd season of the podcast with the last film we saw in theaters for Cate Blanchett. Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes the hosts of the The B Side podcast, Dan Mecca and Connor O’ Donnell.

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Follow along the film is streaming on Hulu.

What is the film about?

From IMDB: A loving mom becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. Her leap of faith takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery.

Based on the novel by Maria Semple, a former TV writer who worked on such shows as Suddenly Susan, Mad About You, and Arrested Development.  

Who does Cate play?

Bernadette Fox – one of many titular characters Cate has played.Charlotte Gray, Veronica Guerin, Blue Jasmine, Carol

What year did it come out?

2019 – delayed more than a year.

Box Office: Domestic = $9.1MM Int’l = $1.8MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 51  RT: 49

Topics discussed:

  • Bernadette is a genius who suffered a major career setback. Can she recover? That’s the movie’s premise. 
  • The film is effective in building the marriage story and the mother daughter relationship but the social satire from maria Semple’s book is lost. 
  • A highlight scene singing Time After Time, Cate undercuts by tearing up “I retain the right to being moved by those little things no one notices”
  • Was Richard Linklater miscast? The book is a social satire and that gets lost in this adaptation. 
  • The woes of this adaptation  as detailed in a Vulture article. There was a script written by Michael H Weber and  Scott Neustadler who wrote 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now but jettisoned by Linklater who brought in his own collaborators.
  • Blanchett as a physical comedian when “talking” with Bernadette’s virtual assistant Manjula.

Murtada’s review of the film published upon release in August 2019:

Blanchett remains best when playing unravelling women, however this is not a companion performance to her signature Oscar winning role in Blue Jasmine (2013) but rather I found myself thinking of another of her creations. The bored housewife who chooses to be kidnapped by bank robbers rather than continue filling her days with housework, in Bandits (2001). Bernadette is just as trapped as Kate Wheeler was and Blanchett manages to imbue her with the right chaotic temperenant to convey a woman confined by psychological trappings she can’t begin to face, let alone conquer. She’s always been a master of gestural acting and here she plays up her facial expressions and gives her body movement a fussy restless energy to show us how Bernadette is longing for more.”

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2019 Redux

While the podcast is on hiatus for the next few weeks, revisit some of our more popular episodes from last year.


Ocean’s 8 and the peak of Cate Blanchett’s celebrity post Carol (2015).


Her spot on interpretation of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.


An early career highlight in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

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The Podcast is on hiatus


The second season of the podcast has wrapped. My thanks to all my guests on this 2nd season of Sundays with Cate. Hope you enjoy all 14 episodes that we recorded. I will taking a short break and will return later in the summer. Notes on a Scandal, Carol we have a few movies we havent discussed as well as other surprises in store for Season 3 of the show.

In the meantime all episodes and show notes are available here – just scroll down or click on the right side bar for you favorite podcast app.

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