Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Talented Ms. Blanchett

Since today's Hit Me With Your Best Shot happens to almost coincide with the birthday of the most impressive cast member of this week's film, I take it as a sign that this post should be dedicated to her:

Happy belated birthday, Cate!

One of the things I've had to come to terms with in the last decade as I've evolved from a teenager who's gradually becoming more invested in movies than most people into a sort-of-an-adult, hard-core cinephile is that Cate Blanchett, one of my favorite actresses, has a filmography that I don't much care for. Sure, she's been ubiquitous for the better part of the last 15 years, hopping from one awards bait to another and every now and then switching it up with something more offbeat, but in my opinion, she's yet give a knockout performance in an equally great film that several other acclaimed actresses of her generation - Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton - have managed to do more than once.

Of all her movies, the one I've seen the most is probably Notes on a Scandal, but that's because of Judi Dench's great performance and lines such as "YOU'RE NOT YOUNG! I say this to help you." Blanchett's take on Sheba doesn't really work for me - sure, her big freak-out scene is entertaining, but she comes across too strong for a character who's basically a total pushover. I haven't seen Heaven for several years, but from what I can remember, she gives one of her best performances to date in the sort of Swinton-esque art house film that I wish she had done more by now.

And then there's The Talented Mr. Ripley - for my money, the best movie of Blanchett's filmography so far and the only one that I love enough to keep on my DVD shelf. Her role isn't quite substantial enough for her to give a performance for the ages, but she makes the most of it and manages to turn Meredith the socialite into an unexpectedly endearing and sympathetic character without downplaying that she's also quite annoying and foolish. My favorite shot is of Ripley catching Meredith's eye for the first time...

There's a pattern to the encounters between Meredith and Ripley: each time, she's been lurking in the background for a while before he becomes aware of her presence. It's ironic, considering how much Ripley himself secretly observes Dickie throughout the first half of the movie.

I love how everything and everyone in the background of the first shot is so matte as if there's a huge painting just behind Ripley and how Meredith already seems to be looking at him longingly, even though she's just seen him for the first time (Cate's face here reminds me a little of Girl with a Pearl Earring). The light makes her appear a bit ghostly, which is fitting since she keeps haunting Ripley throughout the film and probably afterward as well. Poor girl (at least she's rich moneywise, even though she claims to despise it) just happens to run into him over and over again, so it's only a matter of time until he has to whack her too, isn't it?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Your Life Is Not Complete...

...until you've seen The Swarm. "It is more than speculation. It is a prediction!"

This movie truly has it all: Michael Caine as an extremely creepy/shouty entomologist. Katharine Ross as the most useless doctor in the history of cinema. Olivia de Havilland's slow-motion moan! The bees derailing a (spectacularly fake) train, after which every single passenger car explodes for some reason. The bees breaking into a (spectacularly fake) nuclear power plant, which explodes almost instantly for some reason. The bees causing an ambulance to crash into a building, after which it explodes for some reason - and almost as spectacularly as the aforementioned nuclear power plant. The military forgetting that bees can fly and burning down Houston to kill them. Numerous hallucinations caused by bee venom that always consist of one huge-ass bee and nothing else:

This end credits disclaimer in case the normal bees were planning to sue for defamation:

And much, much more. I cannot recommend this glorious mess enough.