The ‘Carol’ Miniseries

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It’s April 17th. The unofficial Carol Day. In the film, that is the day Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) reunite. It also happens to be Mara’s birthday—and the date on which the movie’s love scene was filmed.

Why don’t celebrate by listening to our four part miniseries about Cate Balnchett’s  most loved performance in Carol? You can listen right here!

#1 The Love Story with Luke Willis

In the first of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the love story. How Therese and Carol fell in love, how Todd Haynes visualizes falling in love and the scorching chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

#2 The Queer Cutural Impact with Shayna Maci Warner

In part two, the topic is the cultural impact the film had on queer people. From memes to comedy routines, Carol was adored.

# 3 Cate is the Top with Maggie Larkin

Cate Blanchett’s the top is so many ways. The top star, the top actress. And in Carol she plays the top. In the third of our multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the perfect merge of actor and role with Blanchett as Carol Aird.

#4 The Influences and Inspirations with Izzy from Be Kind Rewind

And in the concluding part we discuss the influences and inspirations behind this masterpiece. From those acknowledged by the director Todd Haynes – David Lean’s Brief Encounter – to others we gleaned from watching the film many times – the films of George Cukor, Deborah Kerr in The End of the Affair and Haynes’ own Far From Heaven.

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‘Carol’ Part Four: The Influences and Inspirations

We conclude our Carol miniseries with a discussion about the influences and inspirations behind the 2015 film masterpiece. From those acknowledged by the director Todd Haynes – David Lean’s Brief Encounter – to others we gleaned from watching the film many times – the films of George Cukor, Deborah Kerr in The End of the Affair and Haynes’ own Far From Heaven. For this conversation Murtada welcomes back Izzy from Be Kind Rewind to discuss these topics and how forming a relationship with a film changes the way you view over time.

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The film is available on vudu.

Topics Discussed:

  • Why does Carol resonate and has such cultural capital six years into its life. True or are we just living in a Carol bubble?
  • Todd Haynes’ women; their internal lives brought to splendid vivid life. This time we get two. Compare Carol and Therese to Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven and the other Carol in Safe.
  • Haynes insists that Carol and Far From Heaven are not similar despite taking place in the same time period. He maintains Carol is more realistic, a love story and not a melodrama though he also says “naturalism is artificial. It’s all artificial.” 
  • Haynes mentions David Lean and Brief Encounter as a direct inspiration for the epilogue and coda of Carol. Other Lean romances include Summertime and Doctor Zhivago
  • Because of the period setting this performance was compared to those from the golden age of hollywood. We talk about Deborah Kerr in The End of the Affair and Greta Garbo’s Romance.
  • Cate’s look, blond hair, red lipstick against the period exquisite cinematography. She has a similar look in Nightmare Alley currently on release. 
  • How with repeated viewing the film becomes funny without losing its emotional impact.

Previous Episodes in the Carol MiniSeries:

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‘Carol’ Part Three: The Perfect Actress for the Role

Cate Blanchett’s the top is so many ways. The top star, the top actress. And in Carol she plays the top. In the third of our multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the perfect merge of actor and role with Blanchett as Carol Aird. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes Maggie Larkin to discuss how Blanchett’s screen persona makes her the ideal actor to play this role.

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The film is available on vudu.

Topics Discussed:

  •  How many times have we seen Carol – why does it resonate?
  • Why is Cate Blanchett so well suited to play Carol? What makes her such a compelling screen presence is what makes her perfect for Carol. The confidence, the glamour, being a consummate actor playing someone who’s always putting on a facade, forced to hide themselves from the world. She plays the text and the subtext, yet never shows all her cards.
  •  Cate always fares better when she shares the screen with other women – think Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock etc.- She is far too intelligent and dominant when paired with men.
  • Deep dive into a few particular scenes that prove Blanchett is the perfect Carol.
  • The chemistry between Cate and Rooney Mara.  
  • Favorite press tour moments 1) Santa barbara Award presentation 2) At Cannes.
  • Blanchett recieved a SAG nomination for Nightmare Alley. Will she be Oscar nominated?

Previous Episodes in the Carol MiniSeries:

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‘Carol’ Part Two: The Queer Cultural Impact

In the second of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the cultural impact the film had on queer people. From memes to comedy routines, Carol was adored. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes writer and film programmer Shayna Maci Warner of Critically Queer, to review the film and talk about its queer legacy.

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The film is available on vudu.

What is the film about?

From Letterboxd:  In 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman. Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith

Who does Cate play? 

Carol, a wealthy NJ woman in 1952 who begins an affair with a young shopgirl that has big ramifications on her life.

How is Cate introduced? 

3 minutes in as Carol and Therese are interrupted at the Plaza..yet it’s that mesmerizing first look in the department that seals the deal we are in for something special.

What year did it come out?

2015

Box Office: Domestic =  $12.7 MM, Int’l =  $27.5MM its cultural impact goes way beyond these numbers.

Critical Response: Metacritic : 94     RT: 94

Topics Discussed:

  • A lesbian film made by queer people: Todd  Haynes, Phyllis Nagy, Christine Vachon, Sarah Paulson. There are some straights too.
  • Desert Hearts (1986) another great lesbian film.
  • The Democratization of access and how it led to Carol‘s cutural impact., see also Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1986).
  • Carol’s seduction of Therese.
  • Cate Blanchett’s heightned portrayal of Carol, playing both the character and the way Therese sees her.
  • The innuendo, the declaring love without saying anything, the drop of the gloves. These  women use everything at their disposal to communicate; except words.
  •  Rooney Mara charts a stingingly real arc for Therese from naivety to maturity.
  • The chemistry between Blanchett and Mara.
  • Blanchett’s ’s chemistry with Sarah Paulson – the only known queer person in the cast.
  • “Mommy’s baby.”
  • The memes; “Harold they are lesbians,” the support group , “gay shaking”  
  • Kathryn Hahn and Rachel Weisz set to the score of Carol.

Other episodes in the Carol series:

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‘Carol’ Part One: The Love Story

In the first of multiple episodes about Carol (2015), the topic is the love story. How Therese and Carol fell in love, how Todd Haynes visualizes falling in love and the scorching chemistry between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. For this conversation, Murtada welcomes filmmaker Luke Willis, to discuss all the above as well as rank the best line reading uttered by Blanchett.

Click to Listen:

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Topics Discussed:

  • Charting the love story in six set pieces 1) meeting at the department store 2) Therese’s visit to Carol’s NJ home 3) the rooftop decision to travel together 4) Waterloo 5) the gun and 6) the finale
  • Cate’s chemistry with Rooney Mara. Playing illicit secret lovers, the screen must smolder if the bond is to be believed. And it does!
  • That opening; that interruption in the first scene- heartbreaking when you consider what’s coming up.
  • Cate’s chemistry with Sarah Paulson -building a physicl language for people who have known each other for years.
  • Favorite line reading of Cate’ and a few fantastic silent moments.
  • Creamed spinach over poached eggs” isn’t that disgusting… that’s what people ate in 1950s? “Dry martini with an olive” though I love. 
  • The movie is so of such rich details, it rewards repeat watching.
  • Therse’s naivety and Carol’s wordliness – the contrast and Therese’s journey to maturity.

Other episodes in the Carol series:

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Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in ‘I’m Not There’

This week we jump ahead to one of Cate Blanchett’s most fascinating transformations; as a version of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There (2007).

Host: Murtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest : Chris Feil, some of Chris’ film writing can be found here. Listen to his Oscar podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz.

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What is the film about?

From imdb: Ruminations on the life of Bob Dylan, where six characters embody a different aspect of the musician’s life and work.

When did it come out?

November 2007.

Who does Cate play?

Jude Quinn; a riff on electric guitar 60s counter revolutionary Dylan.

How is Cate introduced?

A dead corpse in the opening of the film, then at min 46 as Jude Quinn with a long VO intro, comes out guitar in hand, then shoots the audience with machine guns.

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Topics discussed:

  • Is this performance mimicry, a trick or much more? Did she find the soul behind the mannerisms?
  • Why was Cate singled out as the standout performance? Beyond genderbending what’s special about the performance?
  • Could we make the case for this being her best performance ever?
  • Which of the 6 Dylan personas work and which don’t? Why? Discussion the other performances.
  • Michelle Williams as Edgie Sedgwick and Julianne Moore as Joan Baez.
  • It’s an inventive way of making a biopic by having a take on its many different styles. Does it work?
  • D. A. Pennebaker’s 1967 documentary, “Don’t Look Back,” some of which Haynes remakes shot for shot.
  • Has the recent corporatization of music biopics – Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, Yesterday – changed our perception of I’m Not There?

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Famous quotes by the character:

Saying ’cause of peace’, it’s like saying, ‘hunk of butter’, you know, I don’t want you to listen to anybody who wants you to believe is dedicated to the hunk and not the butter

Scenes we liked:

  • Some images are breathtaking, especially the framing of Cate walking through a corridor.
  • Press conference, meeting Ginsberg, Cate’s final shot looking straight at the camera.

What seemed off:

  • What AO Scott called “occasional exasperation at Mr. Haynes sprawling, hectic virtuosity.”

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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

Festivals: Venice, where Cate won the Volpi Cup as best actress.

Awards: Oscar nominee, Golden Globe winner (the year it was not televised), Indie Spirit winner, NSFC winner.

Reviews of film / Cate:

The star of the show is undoubtedly Blanchett, who has great fun playing Dylan as a showboat who quite knowingly goes about creating his reputation for rebellious independence.” – The Hollywood Reporter.

Stylistically audacious in the way it employs six different actors and assorted visual styles to depict various aspects of the troubadour’s life and career, the film nevertheless lacks a narrative and a center, much like the “ghost” at its core.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety.

“If the new film does cohere, for a while, that is thanks to Cate Blanchett, who, armed with curly wig and shades, delivers Jude Quinn, the most gripping of the Dylans on display. She looks like Elizabeth I after a long night out with Walter Raleigh and his packet of virgin smokes. Blanchett seems to yield herself to the project with more gusto and curiosity than the others, as if there were truths about Dylan that need to be unearthed, not merely toyed with, and she is unafraid to remind us of what a pain the man could be, especially when stoned, but even she has to wrestle with the camp knowingness of the script (“I’m the only one with any balls”) and, more alarming, with the flimsiness of the context.” – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker.

Cate Blanchett, under Wayfarers and frizzy hair, does a spectacular, soul-on-the-sleeve enactment of Dylan in his Don’t Look Back media-put-on phase. Blanchett makes Dylan a cussed dude who uses his wit to wound, and Haynes’ slyest joke is that the actress, from her lurching marionette posture to her boyish cheekbones to her slurry misanthropic mumble, is the film’s most exquisitely spot-on Bob.” – Owen Gleiberman, EW.

“Mr. Haynes’s film hurls a Molotov cocktail through the facade of the Hollywood biopic factory, exploding the literal-minded, anti-intellectual assumptions that guide even the most admiring cinematic explorations of artists’ lives. Rather than turn out yet another dutiful, linear chronicle of childhood trauma and grown-up substance abuse, Mr. Haynes has produced a dizzying palimpsest of images and styles, in which his subject appears in the form of six different people.”AO Scott, NY Times.

Haynes is not what one would call a natural filmmaker. His ideas are too evident, his schemata overly present. He is, however, a sort of natural Brechtian: His actors are always “quoting.” I’m Not There gets surprisingly naturalistic performances from Ledger and especially Bale. But it’s the blatant alienation effect provided by Marcus Carl Franklin and Cate Blanchett’s fastidiously copied mannerisms that truly dramatize the self-invented, sheer sui generis–ness of the Dylan trip.”-J Hoberman, The Village Voice.

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

Her first collaboration with Haynes. Later Carol.We all owe a great debt of thanks To Todd Haynes’ body of work which has always been independent“ she said accepting the Indie Spirit award.

Press coverage other than reviews:

  • Todd Haynes to Rolling Stone on why he chose an actress for Jude:

“It was written and conceived as an actress to play the part of Jude from the beginning, before I knew it would be Cate. It was really just that moment in Dylan’s life. What was insane about the way Dylan looked in 1966 was that emaciated body, gigantic hair, the flying hands and the sort of weird marionette figure who was obviously exploring drugs and living on the edge. After the motorcycle crash, there was no flying hands, no big hair, no tiny, skinny body. That Dylan was gone forever. That’s such a famous image of Dylan. I wanted to try to reinfuse it with the cultural shock value of seeing that for the first time in 1965, ’66. So I thought an actress could be interesting, because there was an androgyny there. It wasn’t a Bowie androgyny, it was more a Patti Smith androgyny he was channeling.”

“She realised, she says, that Haynes wanted her to “inhabit the silhouette” of 1966 Dylan. “That’s why he’s cast a woman, because it’s the most iconic silhouette of his musical career. It was a really ironic gesture and also very clever. If a man played the role, people would have assessed it in a different way, whereas they’ve been able to get into the strangeness of what Dylan must have been like in that period by the very fact that I’m a woman. I don’t think it’s anything I’ve necessarily done.”

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Blanchett with Haynes at the 2016 Oscars (this is also Chris’ favorite Cate red carpet moment)

  • Haynes on Cate and “the frame,” in an interview with The Film Stage:

“I have to say, the really extraordinary actors I’ve worked with really do care about the frame, when I was working with Cate Blanchett on I’m Not There, she was playing a man in this role of Jude. She would look at playback. She didn’t look out of a sense of vanity; she just wanted to see how her hips were being filmed and how to place her body in the frame to minimize the broadest curves of her female hips. Sometimes it’s very technical reasons why actors want to see what the frame is. It’s all relevant. It all plays into what is the language and the style, and how is that style informing the interpretation of the storytelling and character. I find some of these extraordinary people I’ve been lucky to work with ask questions about the frame, and it’s always for reasons of how they’re going to interpret their performance accordingly.”

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