Even when she plays a distasteful character -- as she did in "The Shipping News" as Petal, the elegantly trashy skate who strings along a feeble and needy putz (Quoyle, played by Kevin Spacey) just for sport -- she still engenders empathy, often to the point of seeming to be exactly the kind of person you wish you knew in real life. The more risky the role the more she rises to the challenge, as in "Bandits" (who else could have pulled that off?). Sometimes, she is the very best thing about a given movie, as she was in "The Gift". Other times she is flat-out and conventionally just plain good, as she was in "Elizabeth". She is also one of the few actors whose mere presence in a movie is enough to make me want to see it.
She is seen next portraying two complex characters (it's almost redundant to say this about the roles she takes); one is a prostitute in "The Good German", the other a teacher who has an affair with a sixteen year old student in "Notes on a Scandal" (pictured with Judi Dench). NPR's Melissa Block talks with Blanchett.
NPR has a couple other good stories from the past few days: A talk with Tina Fey, the first female head-writer at Saturday Night Live (as well as writer of "Mean Girls").
Kim Masters on the obstacles black actors face in Hollywood and why Will Smith is the biggest movie star in the world.