Posts Tagged ‘Cate Blanchett’

On revisiting Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ fantasy epic

June 23, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 23, 2020

Although I haven’t left the house to socialize since March 15, I have not spent a lot of my abundant free time watching TV or movies. I have devoted a lot of hours to playing Boggle, and I have squandered time watching short videos.

I made an exception earlier this month, however, when I devoted five evenings to rewatching Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was filmed in one go and released in December of 2001, 2002 and 2003, respectively. I own the special extended editions of the first two movies, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and I wasn’t willing to sit through either one in a single night. I wound up doing that for the finale, The Return of the King, of which I own a regular-edition DVD (never opened until last week, incidentally); the finale is three hours and 12 minutes long, so even that was a significant investment of time.

I loved these movies when they were first released. They look great — elaborate sets and lavish costumes and props were supplemented by a great cast, led by Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Moreover, the special effects were excellent for their time. And the production utilized literally dozens of striking New Zealand spots in to stand in for the vast fantasy realm of Middle-Earth. (Indeed, hundreds of thousands of tourists annually flock to Jackson’s native land to visit filming locations used in his Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.) Howard Shore’s tremendous trio of scores rounds things off.

The scripts were penned by the director with two regular collaborators, Fran Walsh (his wife) and Philippa Boyens; another Jackson colleague, Stephen Sinclair, is also credited for the screenplay of The Two Towers. To someone like me, who was and remains very casually acquainted with J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal fantasy novels, they capture the spirit of the source material while making it fairly accessible to the viewer.

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An unlikely love blossoms in the 1950s in Todd Haynes’s excellent ‘Carol’

January 15, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 15, 2016

Director Todd Haynes develops a romance between a young shop clerk and an elegant married mother in Carol, his new adaptation of a 1952 novel by the American writer Patricia Highsmith.

The title character, an upper-crust New Jerseyan, is played by Cate Blanchett. The exotic Australian actress, who may possess the most prominent cheekbones in history, portrays Carol Aird as a sort of cocktail: four parts confidence and two parts doubt along with an infusion of alcohol and nicotine. (The ratio of the latter two elements varies widely from scene to scene but tends to be high.) When she meets Therese Belivet, the younger woman is working at a Manhattan department store. The mousy, neurotic Belivet, whose first name is pronounced tuh-REZ, is so low on the store’s totem pole that she’s subjected to a manager’s withering regard for having the temerity to ask to borrow a pencil and paper.

The movie is framed by a meeting Therese and Carol have at a hotel tea service — potentially their very last encounter — that’s interrupted by one of Belivet’s friends.

Carol is in the process of divorcing Harge Aird (Kyle Chandler, the straight-laced FBI agent in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street). The resentful Harge becomes suspicious of Belivet the moment he sees her, and he is more than willing to use evidence of a lesbian liaison as leverage in the divorce proceedings.

Belivet is dating Richard Semco (Jake Lacy), a younger, less well-heeled version of Harge who’s cajoling Therese into marrying and/or taking a honeymoon in Europe. But the reluctant Belivet is more interested in taking photographs — although usually not of people, which she sees as an invasion of privacy — and talking to her friend who works for The New York Times than she is in reciprocating the affections of either Richard or her reporter pal. (I didn’t catch this character’s name.)

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George Clooney’s arty party can’t quite come together in tale of ‘The Monuments Men’ of World War II

February 8, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 8, 2014

A sequence in The Monuments Men captures the key problem with the new feature directed, co-written by and starring George Clooney.

As sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) are questioning a clergyman about the fate of historic artwork stolen by the Nazis, a sniper begins shooting at them. Garfield and Clermont comically argue about which of them will provide suppressive fire and which will attempt to infiltrate the structure where the gunman is located. After that matter is settled, Clermont races toward a gutted building as Garfield covers him.

Once the Frenchman is inside, his fate comes down to whether he can outfox — and outshoot — the sniper. Clermont advances to the second floor, hugs a door frame and pivots, rifle-muzzle-first, into the space that he thinks contains the shooter. It’s empty.

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Woody Allen finds comedy (but not too much!) in the tragedy of ‘Blue Jasmine’

August 14, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 14, 2013

Author’s note: Having noticed a handful of typos and textual loose ends in this post, I made some adjustments on Aug. 21, 2015. I’ve used boldface (like so) and strikethrough lines (like this) to mark all but the most minor changes. MEM

When we first meet Jasmine, the antiheroine of Woody Allen’s new film, she is a character in free fall. Her successful but disgraced husband, Hal, recently committed suicide in prison; now destitute, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is flying across the continent to move into her sister’s modest San Francisco apartment.

Life with Ginger is destined to be rocky, we learn even before the two characters are shown in the same frame. Jasmine is a college dropout with no work experience, computer aptitude or other job skills, not to mention that she’s horribly whiny, spoiled, self-pitying and snobbish. Both Jasmine and Ginger (Sally Hawkins) were adopted, but the former had an excellent relationship with their parents, while the latter had a rocky one. (Ginger likes to joke, seemingly without bitterness, that Jasmine got the good genes.)

Those things alone would make the situation prickly. But there’s also the fact that the crooked Hal (Alec Baldwin) purloined the lottery winnings of Ginger and her then-husband, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay, demonstrating superb dramatic chops), thereby leading to the breakup of their marriage. And that’s not even mentioning the nearly immediate enmity that springs up between Jasmine and Ginger’s current fiancé, Chili (Bobby Cannavale).

This combustible mix forms the setup for Blue Jasmine, the 44th feature film directed by the astonishingly prolific Allen. Unlike the director’s three previous movies — You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (set in London), Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love — this picture is set exclusively in and around New York City and San Francisco. From a geographic point of view, it resembles the director’s 2009 movie, Whatever Works, which took place entirely in New York. (Several of Allen’s movies prior to Whatever Works had been located in Europe, especially London.)

The two features have more than that in common, though. Neither main character — Jasmine here, Boris in the 2009 film — cuts much of a heroic figure; it’s often hard to find them sympathetic.

But Blue Jasmine is much darker than Whatever Works. If that movie was essentially a comedy with tragic undertones, this one is a tragedy with comic notes. And while Whatever Works wrapped its narrative up with a nice, neat bow, Blue Jasmine arguably provides no such closure. Read the rest of this entry »

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