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May 14 2013

Top Ten: Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine"Today is Cate Blanchett's birthday and sincewe just celebrated her Oscar-winning altar ego Katharine Hepburn,why not extend the love?As longtime readers know I have been notoriously cool on the Aussie star over the years equating her work with the kind of "click click click"technique-first acting that Meryl Streep was sometimes discredited for early on.But since I actually think it's interesting to hearotherpeople talk about their favorite perfromances from actors they don't naturally respond to,I hope it will be interesting to you to hear the things I do love about Cate theto-othersGreat.Cate was EVERYWHERE throughout the Aughts aggravating me with her ubiquity (I have issues with this in general,I know.It's not just Cate but Hollywood's tendency,especially in the past decade,to put the same actors in every movie and wear me out on them) but after four relatively Blanchett-sparse years (2009-2012) wherein she was only doing cameos or thatRobin Hoodno one liked,Iamactually excited to see her again.Which is a relief because they'll be no escaping her again soon...

She's coming back in a major way over the next 24 months with new pictures on the way from Terrence Malick,Woody Allen,George Clooney,and Peter Jackson.She'll cap off that new flush of activity with a blockbuster-hopeful evil queen showstopper in Kenneth Branagh's production ofCinderella.

Here are the ten Blanchett performances of which I am most fond...

I have not seen everything (Charlotte Gray,Veronica GuerinandOscar and Lucindaare major misses) and a few roles she was greatly lauded for I do not like her in AT ALL (The Shipping News,Elizabeth: The Golden Age) and it's possible I'm misremembering my affections but here we go.

10Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull(2008) and/orHanna(2011)
Over the top,sure.But at least she shows no fear of heights.

09The Good German(2008)
So photogenic that sometimes the pose is enough.

08Notes on a Scandal(2007)
Egregious abuse of category fraud,damn her.But even if I never 100% bought her in this role,there are definitely strong moments in this star turn as a flaky sexually reckless school teacher.Perhaps I'd love the performance more if Judi Dench weren't doing the best work of her career in the same film,absolutely owning the duet.

07The Lord of the Rings Trilogy(2001-2003)
Galadriel.She passes the test!

06/05Heaven(2002) andThe Man Who Cried(2000)
The former was a rare moment where she flirted with being an auteur vessel...something she should try more often.The latter was the peak,for me,of her screen beauty and magnetism.I don't remember the performance (or film) well thirteen years later but remember not being able to look away from her face in enigmatic close-up

and the clear favorites

The Promising Newcomer.This wasn't quite the arrival of a fully formed screen giant for me the way it was for many (I was rooting for Montenegro in the Oscar race but was fine with Gwyneth's win),but there was no denying the arrival of someone truly talented.

03I'm Not There(2007)
The Transcendent Stunt.I expected to be unwowed by this.I tried to resist on the grounds of gimmick but I think she's bewitching in it.

02The Aviator(2004)
The Divisive One.Some people think her Kate is all affect and no soul.But Katharine Hepburn herself sometimes performed Katharine Hepburn so...I found this impression riveting and it makes for a worthy Oscar win even if it wasn't the best from that particular year (my honor went to Virginia Madsen,her chief rival,forSideways).

01The Talented Mr Ripley(1999)
The Sly Support.I remember loving hersomuch in this - just absurdly endearing.Will it (and she) hold up again for me when I watch it tomorrow for "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"?

Yours?Are you happy to have her back this year...or was Galadriel enough for you recently?

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Reader Comments (66)

The Talented Mr.Ripley
Notes on a Scandal
I'm Not Here
Coffee & Cigarettes
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Divisive Favorite: I liked her part Julia Sugarbaker,part fairytale villain,part drag queen performance in Hanna.

May 14,2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Remember when George Clooney swore she was going to win an Oscar (or maybe just be nominated) for The Good German?

May 14,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

I think she was supposed to play Countess Vronksaya in Anna Karenina.I wanted to have seen that or see her have an extended square off with Olivia Williams or something.

May 14,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Ripleyis my favorite use of her,too,followed quickly byI'm Not There.Weirdly,I have liked her a lot in at least three movies I thought were otherwise atrocious (The Man Who Cried,The Gift,andThe Missing) while finding her not that memorable in a movie I otherwise adored (Oscar and Lucinda).

May 14,2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

One of my favourite actresses.I would add to the list of Cate's greats:
-Little Fish (criminally underseen)
-Bandits (that 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' performance its one of her best scenes.)

Happy birthday,Cate!

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPat

I have missed a lot of her screen performances.For me nothing will top seeing her in Streetcar Named Desire at BAM ...she was insanely magnetic and alive onstage,easily one of the best theatrical performances I have ever seen.I know she's often criticized for the "click click click"technique that Nathan mentioned,but not here.She was outstanding.

In terms of her film work,I loved her most in:

* The Aviator--For me,she stole the picture,and she has great comic timing.
* I'm Not There
* Hanna--Scenery-chewing,but good scenery-chewing.
* Elizabeth--I liked her in this,but I agree it's not the "OMG how did she lose the Oscar!"travesty that others feel it was
* Benjamin Button--This is my divisive pick.I know many consider it a half-baked Forest Gump-esque melodrama,but I found it beautiful and touching,and she was lovely and unmannered in it.

I'm indifferent to her in the Lord of the Rings movies,and I wasn't as wowed by Notes on a Scandal as most.I do remember liking her in Mr.Ripley,but I've only seen it once in the theater ...it seems so long ago!

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

The Talented Mr.Ripley
Veronica Guerin
I'm Not There
The Aviator
The Gift
Oscar and Lucinda
The Lord of the Rings

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterFernando Moss

Love Cate so much!Glad to finally see a post about her.What are your thoughts on her performance in Benjamin Button Nathaniel?For me it's one of her best.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

Didn't she like make your Actresses of the Aughts countdown and at like #7 or something?When did you cool on her?2006?

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeeking Amy

I don't believe you.Blanchett is textbook Streep with one important exception — she has a soul.Your favorite virtuoso technician sold hers ages ago for the title of world's greatest overrated hammy c(Helen Hunt)t — and all the legitimate complaints about Streep as a performer you see clear as day with Blanchett.What's even more funny is as much as I despise Streep I love her offspring (Blanchett and Chastain) and that Wolf kid (he's so hot and looks just like his daddy).

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Speaking of Cate Blanchett in a new movie this year...when are we getting the rest of the early predicts for next years Oscars???亚博主页

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterFan


May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterCinemateo

Oooh I love Talented Mr Ripley the best too...and may I humbly submit Pushing Tin for consideration?

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Lynskey

Never care for her & Never will.For me she is as interesting on screen as watching a new paint wall drying...

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans


And I bet you love you some Streep!The most boring b(witch)h ever.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I love her work.One of the few actresses (along with Kidman) whom I never feel is phoning anything in regardless of the material or prospects of the film.She even managed to elevate the quality of a Ron Howard film.But my favorite is Elizabeth,especially the early scenes.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Oh!I do with La Streep at the most boring it's at lest a "yellow"wall drying...

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

I agree that "The Talented Mr.Ripley"has been the gem of her career.She's absolutely riveting and moving in it.Best Supporting Actress should have been between her and HBC for "Fight Club."

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I can understand the "click click click"criticism of Blanchett's acting but I think even the most die hard cynic would find her absolutely sensational in I'm Not There.Total Oscar worthy performance and truly magnetic screen work.If Tilda wasn't as equally terrific in Michael Clayton I would've given the Oscar to Care.

I also thought she was aces in The Talented Mr.Ripley and Bandits and very good in Elizabeth even though I didn't think she was the second coming of Christ that many people thought of that performance back then.And she was deliciously hammy in Hanna and totally assimilated into Joe Wright's fantasy world effortlessly.My friends and I still laugh to this day at her gloriously over-the-top southern accent."HUUUUUNY!!!"

But I'm glad she's coming back to the movies.Even if she is not everyone's cup of tea,you at least have to admit that she has a better eye for projects than the woman she's often compared to (ahem Streep)

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

My list of favourites is practically identical.

Top 5: The Aviator,Elizabeth,The Talented Mr.Ripley,and I'm Not There.and The Lord of the Rings
Finalists: The Man Who Cried,The Missing,The Good German,Hanna,and The Gift

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterWayne B.

My top 5 would be Elizabeth,The Talented Mr Ripley,The Aviator,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Shipping News.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterMYS

Ugh where has she BEEN lately.She needs her own vehicle.She was achingly good in Hanna and it just made me wish to see more of her screen presence again.I feel like the most dynamic female screen presence as of late has been JLaw,which just sucks.I WANT CATE.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

2.I'm Not There
3.Charlotte Grey
4.The Talented Mr.Ripley
5.An Ideal Husband
6.The Aviator
7.The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
9.Oscar and Lucinda
10.Notes on a Scandal

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterManolis

Can't believe only one commenter mentioned "Little Fish"!Not only her most vulnerable and emotionally naked performance,but also one of the best ensemble performance from Australian cinema.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenterjoy

I have exactly the same problem with her.The fact that she works in 7 movies per year or she doesn't work at all doesn't help.I honestly believe I would love her way more on stage.My favorites are Scandal and Ripley.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I love Cate in everything but my favourite is Elizabeth.

Joy I'm with you on "Little Fish"but I doubt many outside Australia have seen it.It was made in 2005 on a small budget.It gained critical acclaim in Australia but was not really seen elsewhere.

I have to say I admire Cate for being an Aussie Movie star who made good OS but came home to support the Australian Arts scene by working with the Sydney Theatre Company.

Happy Birthday Ms Blanchett!

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

bandits bandits bandits

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Love her so much and so happy she's coming back.She's amazing even in mediocre films (The Man Who Cried,Charlotte Gray,Veronica Guerin).Rumor has it she's great in a new Woody Allen's movie.I hope for at least Golden Globe nod next award season.
And my favorite performance of her is Elizabeth,of course.Still can't believe she lost that f...ing Oscar to Paltrow.Her final scenes in this movie...Just outstanding.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenterp.j.

Cate is such a movie star,I think yes some of her performances are studied but she is always memorable.I LOVED her in Ripley and Elizabeth.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenterrami (ramification)

I am so sick of her.I don't think she's anything special at all.I loved her absence these last few years.The next two are going to be awful.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterRM

To me,Cate Blanchett has had the most exciting career.

I have seen everything she's done.

I have not seen everything Streep has done,and I adore Meryl Streep.

I cannot call her my favorite actress since I do not have a favorite but somehow I'm obsessed with her and I find her endlessly fascinating.

She is unique,a true chameleon and someone who does not do a road-trip of interviews to promote her work.

I have always found it way too American to rank artists and their performances and I refuse to insult her work in such a way.

I will mention that I think "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"gave us one of her most glorious performances.The enigma,magnetism and eventual heartbreak of Daisy are truly touching and she owns those magical 30 minutes before the credits begin to roll.

If we look at the 13 years between "Elizabet"and "Hanna"we realize that she really has worked with some of the greatest directors out there.She has outsmarted both Streep and Kidman in that department.Add to this her success in theater and we can start talking about the greatest actress of the last 13 years.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Cate Blanchett is an actress unto herself....just wish the press would lay off the Streep comparisons (although I do adore Meryl).An Aussie friend once told me both Cate and Meryl jokingly told the press that they would act together one day in a vampire movie...not sure how true that is...Cate has been one of my favourite actresses since Elizabeth,and I've watched every of her movies.Even when the movie falls short (Good German,Aviator),I simply could not take my eyes off her.And forget about all the click-click-click innuendoes - to me,she's far more organic and soulful than many actresses I've seen (Kidman,recent Streep,Michele,etc).

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJans

@ Jans,well said,but Nathaniel R likes monopoly and this is his site after all,so even though this post is somehow intended to show us,the readers,his good Cate Blanchett side,it still shows Nathaniel bitching:

"the Robin Hood no one liked"-> made more than 300 million and was in Quentin Tarantino's top 10 for 2010;

"(2009-2012) wherein she was only doing cameos"-> I'm not sure how "Hanna"is a cameo,but anyway,I say "whatever".

But of course,the same person will break his heels to defend Nicole Kidman in an almost horrendous turn in "Cold Mountain".He has actually,he broke them.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I didn't care for her Hepburn,but loved her the most in Ripley and Not There.Your top 3 shows,though,that as much as she is a natural movie star,she's more interesting when she gets to play a character.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

I'm in a geeky mood again => for the record and to be cinematically precise,after Cate Blanchett moved her focus to theater in 2009 this has happened:

2010: "Robin Hood"

Director: Ridley Scott (a grand name in cinema)
Role: Female Lead (love interest)
BOX OFFICE: Worldwide $321,669,741
reactions: IMDb: 6.7;metascore: 53/100

2011: "Hanna"

Director: Joe Wright (one of the most fascinating directors of the last 10 years)
Role: Villain/Bitch/Witch/Vermin
BOX OFFICE: Worldwide: $63,782,078
reactions: IMDb: 6.9;metascore: 65/100

2012: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Director: Peter Jackson (a huge name,again)
Role: THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE MOVIE!!!therefore,her 11 minutes are a lifetime on screen;
BOX OFFICE: Worldwide: $1,017,003,568;
reactions: IMDb: 8.1;metascore: 58/100

All in All,for that period the woman has put in beautiful work,was really successful at the box office,as usual worked with big/interesting directors and has had a film every year with the exception of 2009.

I remember that a lot of projects she was rumored for and were on her IMDb page in 2008 and early 2009 were quickly removed,therefore we can safely assume she became really devoted to the idea of serious theater work and turned down a lot of projects.

In fact,I strongly believe it is her breathtaking theater work that attracted further grand directorial interest to her name (Woody Allen,Terrence Malick).

And even if George Clooney was wrong - yes,no Oscar nomination for "The Good German",he didn't hesitate much who to select as his leading lady in "The Monuments Men".

Finally,when Kidman/Winslet/Streep collect the following names in their resume,call me maybe:

Woody Allen,Terrence Malick,Peter Jackson,Steven Soderbergh,Steven Spielberg,Martin Scorsese,Sam Raimi,David Fincher,Joe Wright,Ridley Scott,Todd Haynes,Alejandro González Iñárritu,Wes Anderson,Jim Jarmusch,Anthony Minghella.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I live for Notes on a Scandal.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

Now,you really made a point with that list of directors there,Yavor!!My cinematic soul aches a little bit every time I think Kidman hasn't worked with Woody yet (I like to think he could get a great neurotic performance out of her).But then I remember she dropped out of 'You will meet a tall dark stranger' (which was rather "meh") to do the truly special 'Rabbit Hole' and feel a bit relieved she actually made the right choice with her priorities there!

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

My favourite is Elizabeth & I'm in the camp that says she deserved the Oscar & not Paltrow.

Always gives a good performance even in rubbish films,Robin Hood & Hanna spring to mind.

Somehow feel we still haven't seen the best performance from her,it's just waiting to be unleashed when the right role comes along!

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commentersuzy

Yavor: Don't list Kidman and Winslet aloong with Streep,because they actually has a fair sized list of work with distinctive auterial figures,whether they're more pop or more art-house.Also,you forgot EDGAR Wright (a stronger filmmaker,in my view,than the stuffy show-off Joe).

Kidman's "artist bed-post": Baz Luhrman,Lars Von Trier,Jonathan Glazer,Noah Baumbach,John Cameron Mitchell,Jane Campion,Stanley Kubrick,Philip Kaufman,Anthony Minghella,Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck.(Hey,he did do The Lives of Others,so there's something of the artist in him.)

Now here's Streep's: Steven Spielberg (V/O cameo),Spike Jonze,Woody Allen and (if he really counts) Clint Eastwood.

And here's Winslet's: Ang Lee,James Cameron,Jane Campion,Michel Gondry,Todd Field,Sam Mendes,Todd Haynes,Roman Polanski and Jason Reitman.

As for Favourite Blanchett: I know this is going to be perceived as criminally slight for a best performance,but I have to go with her Hot Fuzz cameo.Sorry,but she somehow crafts a full and passionate human being in less than three minutes.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Yavor's list of directors is pretty impressive,but it makes me wonder if my own personal problem with Cate Blanchett is tied to the fact that so many of those movies are among (what I consider) the director's worst films (Spielberg,Scorsese,Raimi,Fincher,Scott,Inarrittu,Anderson).

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

@ Mike - brave,brave statement,Mike!I cannot imagine how Ben Button can be Fincher's worst,how The Aviator can be Scorsese's worst,or The Gift,Raimi's worst,but hey,we all are entitled to an opinion.

@ Regarding Kidman/Winslet - I'm not hating on them;I think Winslet is a great actress and I love Kidman,but I think Blanchett has produced very interesting work,even when the films did not deliver.

On the negative side: Winslet is too selective/picky and sometimes for the worse,while Kidman will once in a while do a "Just Go with It",a "Trespass",you name it.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Yavor: Just to clarify - I wasn't sure if my original post would read properly - but those movies are among my least favorites by each director (not the very worst,but among the worst...) Raimi,certainly,has done worse than The Gift.
None of that is the fault of Blanchett,either,but my opinions on actors and actresses are often influenced by the replay value of the movies they're cast in.;)

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Mike,sorry I read "worst"my apologies *angel face* :)

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

@Yavor,thanks for sharing the list of directors with whom Cate has worked.One word - wow!

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterJans

Yavor -- i have never defended Kidman in Cold Mountain.I don't think she's very good in it.She is also not great at light comedy.See: Bewitched.(although neither is Blanchett actually)

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenternathanielr

Number 1 should have been "Elizabeth."That's Cate Blanchett's pinnacle performance and the one that should have won her the Oscar.

Can't wait to get more of La Cate in the coming years!The Aussies have cockblocked her long enough.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterSamson

Blanchett's an interesting actress.I don't always warm to her onscreen,but she's clearly talented and often quite fun to watch.I like her best when she gets a bit unhinged (she was lots of fun in Crystal Skull),which is why I am angry that I STILL haven't seen Hanna.This sound like damning with faint praise and it's not,but I've always seen her as a kind of Swinton-lite.She could go much further "out there"than she does.I do really love that she went back to the stage for the past few years (I wish more movie stars did this).I wish I had gotten to see her Blanche DuBois,but I did get to see The Cherry Orchard last year and it was quite wonderful.

My favorite performances of hers are (in no particular order): The Gift,Benjamin Button,I'm Not There (BEST),Notes On A Scandal,and Fellowship of the Ring.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

After seeing her on stage in Uncle Vanya,I think she is ultimately a creature of the theater and her best work is there.She was dynamite and natural and funny and a real ensemble player.Perhaps it is her "staginess"that you read in her film work,Nathaniel?(And don't get me wrong,I love her in Ripley,Aviator,Scandal,Hannah and more...)

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

I think she is a wonderful screen star and actress,but like Tom M I think she is a total woman of the theatre.She is larger than the screen,which is why she delivers incredibly in larger-than-life characters like Galadriel.I saw her on-stage once playing Richard II,with no set but a constant downpour of gold streamers,and -- the two matched each other.She's a star,pure and simple.

I love watching her on film,but I'm waiting for her to really sell me a role like Winslet,Kidman or Huppert can (at times) achieve.That said,I think she is unbelievably good in "Little Fish"and "Bandits",playing 'small'.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

It's interesting to me when someone's adoration or lack thereof for an actress which closely matches my feelings endears that person to me.I think it's something about knowing that the other person is responding subconsciously in the same way I do that appeals.I,too,have had my struggles with Ms.Blanchett and found familiar ground in your words.Thanks again Nathaniel.

May 15,2013 | Unregistered Commenterbillybil

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