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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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 . Click to Listen: 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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