best film: The Lord of the Rings features enough of Cate Blanchett to qualify here. Blanchett is quite good in her limited time on screen as Galadriel. The closest competition in this category for Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s epic masterpiece are The Aviator from Martin Scorsese and The Talented Mr. Ripley from Anthony Mingella. This category is a bit of a weakness for Blanchett in that she has not really been more front and center in some of her best films.
best performance: Todd Haynes’ Carol is probably next up after the three mentioned above as far as the question of Blanchett’s best film is concerned (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is sneaky good, too- vastly underrated), but Blanchett’s work in Carol does not sit behind any her other performances, this is her single best work. Blanchett plays the titular character- Carol Aird. The source material is from Patricia Highsmith (the author some amazing films including the aforementioned Talented Mr. Ripley). Todd Haynes is a Queer Cinema giant—and Carol is a major achievement—he is better when he is telling a straightforward narrative, with a strong female lead (Julianne Moore twice in Safe and Far from Heaven and Blanchett here), and focusing his impact on the mise-en-scene and not a funky narrative. His three strongest films are Safe, Far from Heaven and this— and his weakest are Poison, Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There (also with Blanchett)—and Wonderstruck—all complex narrative creations without a strong female lead.
stylistic innovations/traits: Blanchett has two undeniable strengths. Her depth of resume is the first and it is hard to deny. Even if you combine her work in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and acknowledge some of her really small roles (I’m looking at you Coffee and Cigarettes, Knight of Cups and Don’t Look Up) she is still already hovering around twenty (20) archiveable films- up there with Tilda Swinton and Meryl Streep for the overall lead for any female actor. Counting all of her roles, Blanchett already leads over Swinton and Streep and she almost a decade younger than Swinton and two decades younger than Streep. Her second strength is her sheer range and talent. Two of her top five performances are playing Katharine Hepburn and Bob Dylan… stop and chew on that one for a minute. As Dylan in I’m Not There, Blanchett’s gender-bending (keeping with Haynes as a feminist artist, a figure of Queer cinema) performance is just awesome- it goes beyond just gimmick—she is electric—angered- shining like a beacon in a cast swimming with great actors (when you outduel Heath Ledger and Christian Bale- that is something).
directors worked with: Todd Haynes (2) and Peter Jackson (2- counting LOTR as one and The Hobbit as one) lead the way—nobody else more than once. Haynes is her most important single collaborator. To be clear, Blanchett has worked with almost all of the great contemporary auteurs: Terrence Malick, Woody Allen Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jim Jarmusch David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Soderbergh, Anthony Minghella, Tom Tykwer, Richard Linklater, Sam Raimi, Adam McKay and Joe Wright. But look at those names and the corresponding films—it is almost kind of miraculous but they are just about almost all among the weaker films for those great auteurs- certainly part luck or bad luck.
top five performances:
- The Aviator
- Blue Jasmine
- I’m Not There
|1999- The Talented Mr. Ripley|
|2000- The Gift|
|2001- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring|
|2002- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers|
|2003- Coffee and Cigarettes|
|2003- The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King|
|2004- The Aviator|
|2004- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou|
|2006- Notes on a Scandal|
|2006- The Good German|
|2007- I’m Not There|
|2008- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button|
|2012- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey|
|2013- Blue Jasmine|
|2013- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug|
|2014- The Hobbit: The Battles of the Five Armies|
|2015- Knight of Cups|
|2017- Thor: Ragnarok|
|2019- Where’d You Go, Bernadette|
|2021- Don’t Look Up|
|2021- Nightmare Alley|