Another great Kate

Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Tuesday 7 Mar 2023

Whether you spell it with a K or a C, history is replete with many Kates, both in real queens to Hollywood royalty.

The most popular Kate today is Catherine, princess of Wales, also known as Kate Middleton who has rapidly won the hearts of many Brits with her beauty, grace, and fashion sense.

Britain has bred many Kates, a diminutive of Katherine, starting with Catherine of Aragon, first wife of king Henry VIII, who changed the course of history when the Catholic Church refused to grant him a divorce. He severed his relation with Rome and became the head of the new Anglican Church of England, attained his divorce and married his beloved Ann Boleyn. After four more unfortunate marriages, his sixth and last wife was another Catherine, a devout queen and a best-selling author.

How about Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, who helped the country become one of the great powers in Europe?

There are more royal Catherines, but let us move on to Hollywood where more Cates are popular, especially the late queen Katherine, as in Hepburn.

We have Kate Winslet, Oscar-winning British actress of “Titanic” fame, Kate Hudson, Kate Beckinsdale, as well as designer Kate Spade and the waifish British fashion model, Kate Moss.

Our great Cate, spelled with a C, is the incomparable Cate Blanchett, who hails from Australia and dazzled Hollywood with her first internationally acclaimed film, Elisabeth I, for which she was nominated for an Oscar in 1999.

Ironically, it was her portrayal of a Hollywood queen that won her the golden statuette for Best Supporting Actress in 2004. It was the beginning of a flood of awards for this young Aussie whose versatile talent, and perfect pitch, became the source of her rapid rise to Hollywood royalty. She won Best Actress Award for the comedy-drama Blue Jasmine in 2013.

The 1920s became the Blanchett era, with films and stage performances that mesmerised audiences throughout the world

Oscar night, Filmdom’s annual biggest event, takes place on 12 March. Our publication appears every Thursday, by then the news of winners and losers will already be known worldwide. We choose to precede the event by reviewing the entries and often predicting results or justifying our favourites.

Our focal point this year is to highlight the life and work of a great actress of our time, Blanchett, nominated for a third Oscar this year for her portrayal of lesbian musician Lydia Tar, about to conduct the German Symphony Orchestra. It was named the year’s best film by more critics than any film released last year.

Cate won Best actress at the Venice Film Festival, the Golden Globe, the Critics’ Choice Award and the BAFTA Awards. One would conclude the Oscar is a sure thing, but it is not.

The Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) awarded Michelle Yeoh Best Actress for a film often referred to as “nonsensical” by critics, yet has been given 11 nods by the Academy — the most nominations this year. The title alone is a sign of its absurdity, Everything, Everywhere All at Once.

The reason is purely political. The intention is to give an opportunity for minorities to shine, with or without reason. This displays an American guilt syndrome, causing great harm to every profession. The award is supposed to celebrate the most outstanding achievement not a reward for the minority population in America. It is an unfair practice, depleting enthusiasm, unless you are black, Asian or other.

Oddmakers are divided between Cate and Michelle Yeoh, a Malaysian actress of Chinese origin, who has by far the less experience and ability in this competition.

Why then did her fellow actors, members of SAG, overlook Blanchette for Yeoh? Because they may be branded as racist.

What happened to the principles of the academy? They are as solid as tinsel.

What are they thinking those academy members? Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, neither did Richard Burton as well as many of Hollywood’s elite filmmakers.

The precise ways by which thy come up with their opinions is dubious, to say the least.

Will our Cate win her golden boy come Sunday night? We believe she will for her masterful mind and unique ability that shine through her portrayals.

Should she not be considered a minority too? She’s one of a score of Aussies in Hollywood. That’s a minority.

Blanchett stands alone with her remarkable character development. Her shining star is her raw, natural, unbridled talent that grabs a role, and makes it her very own. She worked endless hours to learn to play the piano, the accordion, dance, sing and learn German and conduct a real orchestra. She never repeats her roles, but varies her abilities through multiple challenges, regularly and effortlessly.

Born in Melbourne on 14 May 1969, Catherine Elise Blanchette attended the National Institute for dramatic Arts. As a student her travels brought her to Cairo, where she accepted to be an extra in an Egyptian movie Kaboria (Crab) because she needed the money.

Television viewership for Oscar night has fallen every year since 2015. From 53 million viewers in 1988 to 3.8 million in 2021.

Politics is a spoiler. Oscar gold has turned to brass. It is not the glitz and glamour, but the best in the art of film.

Give us back our gold.

 

“An Academy Award nomination is the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (1948- )


* A version of this article appears in print in the 9 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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