Thursday, July 25, 2013
The Talented Ms. Blanchett
Here's my ten favorite Cate Blanchett performances:
Steven Soderbergh's evocatively shot 2006 thriller is not a particularly strong movie. Despite the beautiful black and white photography and the cleverly sculpted a la Ingrid Bergman-performance by Blanchett, there's little to take away from film with it's pedestrian plot and egregious miscasting --> Tobey Maguire. Blanchett, however, creates a lovely homage to the classic screen stars of 1940s, rendering a playful presence and a spot-on German accent to boot.
Again, Ron Howard's feminist western film is mostly forgettable with the exception of Blanchett's stalwart performance as a frontier woman trying to get her daughter back from a kidnapping while being forced to join alliances with her deadbeat father, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Howard doesn't really have the guts to go through the film all the way through, but Blanchett is strong fighter and electric presence throughout. A spot-on oater accent as well.
Sam Raimi's strange crime drama centered around a Southern psychic puts Blanchett front and center, never for a second letting anyone take the film away from her. It's a strong and gritty role of immense personality. Southern accent, check.
In playing the real-life Irish journalist who was mysteriously killed, Blanchett brought a bristling humanity to a so-so docudrama.
Notes is Judi Dench's film, through and through- handily so that it seems that Blanchett isn't particularly trying in the manner we would, at this point in her career, have expected her to have. However, one second glance, her Sheba, a high school teacher who makes a terrible mistake and falls prey to Dench's dubious tricks, is a definitive portrait of a woman at her weakest and most downtrodden. It's far from Blanchett's most accomplished portraits, but refreshing in its tarted up desperation.
For a character that at first appears so incidental, incidental to the point that was utterly invented by the filmmakers and seemingly haphazardly thrust to book-end the film, Blanchett sneaks in so many notes and hidden clues to her limited screen time as a clumsy American heiress traveling abroad, such to the point, she nearly steals the entire movie away.
Ridiculous sequel aside, respect must eternally be paid to Blanchett's breakout and wondrously calibrated take on Queen Elizabeth. Some of the facts may be thrown to the wind for narrative poetics, but her performance is regal and beautiful, such that it earned her first Oscar nomination and a career full of attentive devotees.
Blanchett has never been as playfully bent, loose or funny than in Jim Jarmusch's black and white vignette film Coffee and Cigarettes, playing a loose variation of herself as well as her tawdry cousin her hold her famous fabulosity with such contempt.
Blanchett won her first Academy Award for playing screen legend Katherine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic. The mimicry was spot-on, what with that voice, that athletic sprint, and imposing authority-- but that's only half the trick up Blanchett's sleeve. She manages to transcend mere mimicry and embody a living, breathing human by dressing down her legend.
Talk about mimicry-- three years after channeling the hard to maneuver act of Hepburn, she took on Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' looney and sublime not-quite biography film. Not just Dylan, but iconic Dylan. The mimicry again was in perfect symmetry, but the art is the poetry behind the surface gestures. Her greatest act...so far.
What are your favorites?