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Cate Blanchett’s most memorable films

Her performances are always good — even when the film isn’t — and more often than not, brilliant.
/ Source: contributor

In this era of the 24/7 media-tainment industrial complex, Cate Blanchett, is unique. Like her compatriot Nicole Kidman, she is on the very top-tier of working actresses.

But unlike Kidman, who became a tabloid fixture from her decade-long marriage to Tom Cruise, Blanchett has retained an air of mystery.

Despite being an internationally known actress with a touch of old Hollywood glamour and a fashion icon, she leads a private life by Hollywood standards. Her performances are always good — even when the film isn’t — and more often than not, brilliant. She is, no doubt, the gold standard by which Hollywood actresses judge themselves. Here is a list of her most memorable performances.

“Lord of the Ring: The Fellowship of the Rings” (2001)One of the myriad reasons that this film succeeded on every conceivable level is the amazing company of actors who worked on it. No, I’m not talking about Sean Astin but Ian Holms, Sir Ian McKellen and Blanchett. She nearly steals the show from the wizards, rangers and hobbits with her performance of Galadriel, the ethereal elf queen, a divisive Mother Earth figure in the mythos of Middle Earth, inspiring both love and fear — which Blanchett captures perfectly in her all too brief appearance. Although, she would appear in the two sequels, her performance in “Fellowship” is one of the cinematic trilogy’s many highlights.

“The Good German” (2006)Few actors besides Blanchett and George Clooney could make a self-conscious, black and white homage to the film noir genre and not have it reduced to parody. Even fewer actresses could play a femme fatale — complete with foreign accent, Lana Turner-like hair and a shadowy past — and imbue the role with a humane touch like Blanchett. Despite the conventionality of the story (American G.I. returns to war-torn Europe to find his lady love, a mysterious woman with a shadowy past) this film is a cinematic eye candy. Blanchett is nothing short of amazing.

“Heaven” (2002)
Rarely does Blanchett make a misstep in her choices, but this is one of them. The film, by Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”), is a largely Italian-language film about a conspiracy among Italy’s national police, the caribinieri, and a drug-dealing corporate hotshot. It aims to be sophisticated and smart, but like the bomb that Blanchett revenge-seeking character plants, it goes awry. She, of course, is still wonderful as a grief-stricken teacher-turned-terrorist and even manages to makeup for Giovanni Ribisi’s wooden performance as a bed-wetting carabinero.

“Charlotte Gray” (2001)Like “The Good German,” this overlooked film is a clever thriller set during the World War II. Blanchett plays the title character, an Englishwoman who joins a British Intelligence unit to work covertly behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France. As she often does, she outshines her co-stars — especially poor Billy Crudup. Fortunately, she finds her match in the always-excellent British actor Michael Gambon.

“Babel” (2006)Perhaps the most over-hyped film of last year, “Babel” is hardly the masterpiece that critics and studio execs made it out to be. Using his usual nonlinear postmodern style of interconnected stories, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu marries four plotlines from across the globe into this beautifully shot but ultimately too long film. And his best actor Cate Blanchett barely appears in it. Her role is reduced to lying around and bleeding. What a waste. Note to the director: when you’ve got Cate Blanchett in your movie, by all means, give her some screen time; you won’t be sorry.

“The Aviator” (2004)For her spot-on impersonation of Hollywood icon Katherine Hepburn in this Martin Scorsese-directed biopic, Blanchett received an Oscar — one of her three nominations since 1999. While the film is full of subtle brilliance — were you expecting less from Scorsese? — it still seems somewhat lightweight compared to his canonical work (“Mean Streets,” “Raging Bull,” etc). But again, Blanchett steals the show. Like many of her films, she’s the main reason to pay $10 for a ticket.

“Elizabeth” (1999)This sumptuously filmed costume drama put Blanchett on the map. For her amazing performance as Queen Elizabeth I, she garnered her first Oscar nomination, and established herself outside her native Australia as a bona fide star. Unfortunately, the recently released sequel, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” fell short of the high standards of the earlier film. No matter; this one is worth repeated viewings.

“I’m Not There” (2007)It will be a shame if Blanchett doesn’t get an Oscar nod for her quixotic performance as a Bob Dylan-like figure in this blatantly original film that is more inspired by rather than about Dylan’s life. Blanchett is downright brilliant. She out-performs Dylan as a rock star on the verge (Dylan set the standard for such performances himself, in the classic documentary, “Don’t Look Back”). Those black and white sequences are by far the best part of the film and visually invoke Fellini’s “8 ½.”  Any way you cut it, playing Dylan — one of the best-known musical legends — is a gutsy, provocative move on her part. It’s a choice like this that sets Blanchett apart from her peers.

“Coffee & Cigarettes” (2003)Here’s another quirky choice that illustrates Blanchett’s fearlessness. In this film, a series of vignettes by Jim Jarmusch, Blanchett plays two characters engaged in an awkward conversation: one is a time-pressed movie star like herself, the other is her brunette rocker chick cousin. The first is accomplished, beautiful, cosmopolitan, while the other is insecure, uncertain, pedestrian. Blanchett is brilliant as both. The sequence is a one-woman workshop for actors.

“The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” (2004)The least loved of Wes Anderson’s quirky comedies, “The Life Aquatic” is a wonderful film that never got its just due. Blanchett flexes her comic muscles as a pregnant journalist who tags along for the ride on the latest adventure of Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). She adds a new dimension to Anderson’s company of regulars (Murray, Owen Wilson, Angelica Huston) and joins in on the fun.