Tag Archives: cate blanchett

Lame Adventure 470: The Highlight of the 53rd New York Film Festival

Milton and I have spent much of the past two weeks at the New York Film Festival where we’ve seen quite a few low lights. Before attending a screening of Mountains May Depart, the latest film by the Chinese director and screenwriter, Jia Zhangke, we rubber necked the red carpet photo op. Here is Jia with his frequent leading lady, his wife, Zhao Tao.

Tao and Jia.

Tao and Jia.

Mountains is a drama set in the past, present and future about a woman who is loved by two men, one rich and the other, poor. She marries the rich guy and has a son he names Dollar. Even though Jia insists that his film is about 21st Century capitalism and the discontent felt by those that have benefitted from it, we found it trite. To quote Milton:

Milton: I didn’t buy any of it.

He also hated the q&a and grumbled:

Milton: I can’t believe I’m giving up food for this.

What I will remember most from that film is how much it made me crave dumplings.

While Milton was in the bathroom, I noticed the filmmaker, Michel Gondry, in the lobby, following a screening of his latest, Microbe & Gasoline, a whimsical tale about two French teenage boys that build a vehicle and set out on a road trip.

Michel Gondry.

Michel Gondry.

I found it entertaining fluff. Milton thought it had absolutely no business being in the festival and groused that that slot should have gone to Macbeth starring Michael Fassbinder and Marion Cotillard. I would have gladly argued that point with him, but I couldn’t. I was also disappointed that Macbeth wasn’t screened.

While I was busy at work, Milton emailed me that filmmaker Chantal Akerman had died in Paris on Monday, an apparent suicide. This was quite a shock. We had tickets to her latest film, No Home Movie, and we were looking forward to hearing her speak at the post-screening q&a. As news of her death spread, our screening became a very hot ticket. I raced straight from work in Long Island City to Alice Tully Hall. I was very surprised that the lobby was not busier and that I had arrived before Milton. As I waited for him, I noticed the filmmaker, Wes Anderson. I took this terrible gotcha shot and texted it to Milton.

Wes Anderson as a blue in brown shoes.

Wes Anderson as a blur in brown shoes.

At about the same time, I realized that I was at the wrong theater. I rocketed to the theater I needed to be at about a block away. When I arrived, it was the mob scene I had anticipated. Fortunately, Milton had gotten there first and had secured seats. As for Akerman’s final film, an experimental documentary about her dying, elderly mother, an Auschwitz survivor, I found it painfully dull and slept through most of the first quarter. Upon leaving, we ran into my friend, Lola, who said that she liked it. Milton asked:

Milton: What did you like about it?

This film was another misfire with us. I told Milton that it made me think about my father at the end, a difficult time in his life I never considered recording on film. Milton said:

Milton: It made me think about wanting dinner.

Even though these movies were misfires, these were all films we had wanted to see, so we don’t regret going. But the film we wanted to see most delivered. That film was Carol, a lesbian May-December romance set in the 1950s, a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Phyllis Nagy brilliantly adapted Patricia Highsmith’s novel, which was essentially a road movie, for the screen. Cate Blanchett, who has never looked more alluring, plays the title character, a gorgeous but troubled cool blonde straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s gorgeous cool blonde playbook. Rooney Mara is Therese, the shop girl and aspiring photographer, who is instantly smitten with this glamorous, charismatic, sophisticated woman twice her age. Shining just as brightly as his two perfectly cast female leads, is filmmaker, Todd Haynes. He has skillfully directed a masterpiece that is superbly shot by cinematographer, Ed Lachman, and scored by composer, Carter Burwell. Even though I had read the novel that Highsmith had published under the pseudonym, Claire Morgan, when it was originally titled The Price of Salt, almost 25 years ago, I knew the story well, but I was so elated at the film’s ending, it gave me chills. Carol is filmmaking at its finest. It is a great lesbian love story that packs an emotional wallop. It opens in the US on November 20th.

Carol q&a with from left to right, Cate Blanchett, producer Elizabeth Karlsen, Phyllis Nagy, Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes, Amy Taubin

Carol q&a (l to r), Cate Blanchett, producer Elizabeth Karlsen, Phyllis Nagy, Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes, moderator Amy Taubin

Lame Adventure 326: Uncle Vanya and Tom Hanks

Currently the Lincoln Center Festival is happening here in New York.  Lincoln Center describes this festival as “an effort to look outside the Western European canon, to broaden notions of classicism by presenting classical works from other parts of the world.”  Milton got us tickets to Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya as staged by the Sydney Theatre Company, a theater company run by Cate Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton.

Upton adapted Chekhov’s play and Tamás Ascher directed the terrific cast starring Blanchett as the ravishing Yelena.  Hugo Weaving, and Jacki Weaver, who first came to our attention when we saw her in the film, Animal Kingdom, in 2010 are amongst her co-stars.  Milton was certain that this limited ten-day run was going to garner rave reviews and would be a very tough ticket.  He was right.  This story about bleak love-starved bumblers spending summer together in a run down estate was both hilarious and sad.  It’s not every day that I can declare misery so entertaining.  Milton pronounced Blanchett’s performance, “Luminescent.”  She is sensational on stage and I feel very fortunate to have finally seen her grace the boards.

The theater where this play is being performed is the cavernous New York City Center.  It seats 2,750.  I am quite sure that the entire brief run is sold out.  We sat in the last row of the mezzanine, seats that were rather high and quite far from the stage.  At intermission Milton announced:

Milton:  We’re sitting so far away I don’t recognize anyone.  Which one’s Jacki Weaver?

Me: Jacki’s the nanny.  Cate’s the sexy blonde.  Hugo Weaving’s the doctor.

Milton:  Oh, that’s him? Good to know.

Even without knowing who was who, and seeing it from seats located in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, it was a brilliant production and very entertaining.

There were tiers of theater above and behind us.  I think those sections were located upstate.

It is against theater policy to take photographs of the production, and we did not want to get kicked out.  While waiting for me outside the theater Milton did take this gotcha shot of Tom Hanks with an unidentified female companion.

Tom Hanks pays the price of fame: Milton’s iPhone gotcha shot.

Odds are good that he sat considerably closer than us.  When Milton was in the men’s room he noticed Bill Irwin at the urinal, but he resisted taking his picture.  I’m sure there were other famous people in our audience, but since I emptied my bladder before leaving my garret, I did not scope out the women’s restroom.