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Carol and Cate Blanchett’s Oscar dilemma

Cate Blanchett with Robert Redford in 'Truth'.

Cate Blanchett with Robert Redford in 'Truth'.

carol-movieLeave it to Cate Blanchett to have people asking not if she will win an Oscar but what role it will be for.

The Australian thespian stars in two contenders this year – the 1950s-set love story Carol and the American docudrama Truth.

Neither have had a mainstream release in Australia yet but both have been garnering buzz loud enough to deafen even the roar of the MGM lion.

An advance screening of Carol at Melbourne’s Rivoli cinema last week confirmed what we have all been expecting: Blanchett is exquisite – a clear Oscar contender.

As a married woman in the midst of a messy divorce having an affair with a young female store clerk, she delivers a masterclass in seduction, not only bewitching her on-screen love interest (played by Rooney Mara) but the entire audience.

The film, based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, is a slow-burn kind of cinema, measured and subtle until an unexpected twist kicks it up a notch into gripping drama mode.

It’s easy to see how Mara’s character, an innocent department store clerk seeking an escape from banality, falls for Blanchett’s mysterious, commanding housewife, Carol Aird. She is captivating at a level that is almost not mortal.

To call the film a “lesbian romance” as many have is somewhat robbing it of its central premise: a love story that eclipses age, gender and situation.

Blanchett’s performance has already been hailed as a career best. While she took home the Oscar for her near-flawless turn in Blue Jasmine in 2014, this role has possibly improved on that.

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Carol ultimately belongs to Blanchett,” industry magazine Variety declared in its review of the film, directed by Todd Haynes.

“As searing as Blanchett was in her Oscar-winning turn in Blue Jasmine, she arguably achieves something even deeper here by acting in a much quieter, more underplayed register.”

Of course, there are already a host of competitors for Best Actress Oscar emerging from the woodwork.

Marion Cotillard acts her heart out as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth alongside Michael Fassbender.

Gen-Y favourite Jennifer Lawrence is getting rave reviews for her turn as a single mother-turned-mogul in Joy.

And indie darling Brie Larson is receiving high praise for her performance in harrowing captivity drama Room.

But Blanchett’s real competition is herself. Academy rules stipulate that an actor can only be nominated once per category and Carol and Truth will likely both fall into Lead Actress.

Cate Blanchett with Robert Redford in 'Truth'.

Cate Blanchett with Robert Redford in ‘Truth’.

In Truth, Blanchett plays television producer Mary Mapes, whose memoir inspired the movie, which details a controversial 2004 report on CBS network’s 60 Minutes.

The report alleged that President George W Bush was given preferential treatment during his time with the Texas Air National Guard.

Such was the controversy surrounding the news that it led to the sacking of anchorman Dan Rather (played by Robert Redford in the film) and Mapes.

CBS is refusing to run trailers for the film, with a spokesman for the network saying the film is full of “distortions, evasions and baseless conspiracy theories”.

It’s exactly the kind of media storm that boosts Oscar chances, plus early reviews of Truth have been unsurprisingly positive about Blanchett’s performance.

“Blanchett makes us feel the creeping horror of professional disgrace, the fear and stigma, however unfair Mapes argues her treatment may have been. We watch a polished professional come apart at the seams, caught up in self-incrimination and spiralling neurosis,” The Telegraph UK said of the 46-year-old’s performance in the film.

Whatever happens on this year’s award season circuit, there’s no question Blanchett will at the very least be nominated.

For which film? Go see both and decide for yourself.

Truth hits Australian cinemas on December 3, 2015. Carol hits cinemas on January 1, 2016.

SEVEN ELEVEN STOCK

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