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Netflix’s biggest chance for Oscar fame this year is Mank, like screenwriter Herman J.. . Mankiewicz wrote Citizen Kane. Yes. I know. Another film about films. Although you might be shocked to hear that it’s not necessarily about how great Hollywood is. But at the same time, it is also a reminder of how great Hollywood films are, as they are essentially the greatest films ever made. It’s got a lot of credibility – David Fincher is directing a script written 20 years ago by his father Jack Fincher and infamous shapeshifter and Oscar winner Gary Oldman, AND it’s shot in ultra-lush black and white. Here, someone who loves movies (hint: I’m very similar to this one) analyzes their feelings about movies about movies (hint: their feelings range from tired to tired) to see if that movie about a movie is good or not.
The Gist: RKO Pictures, home of King Kong and dozens of other films, has given 24-year-old Hollywood prodigy Orson Welles full creative control over his first image. No Studio Buttinsky’s, Final Cut, all of that. Wild. It’s 1940. He hired Herman J.. Mankiewicz, et al. k. one. Shortage to write. Mank’s a drunk, a gamer, and funny like him – and he’s a Hollywood veteran who did uncredited work on San Francisco, The Wizard of Oz, and many others. He is lying flat on his back recovering from a car accident when he and a secretary, Rita Alexander (Lily Collins), are dragged to a guest house in Mojave to have a script written out in 90 days. In a cast that eats up the lower half of his torso and most of a leg. And sober. He has to be sober. He is 43 and is played by Oldman who is 62. Deficiency is miserable.
Mank jumps between Mank sweating in his giant immobilizer and the early 1930s when events occurred that inspired him to write about a lonely megarich newspaper tycoon whose attempt to start a political career failed. Mank works in a writer’s room for MGM, where he and the boys play coin flips and poker hands while a secretary carries pies and doesn’t do much transcribing her gibber. occasionally they present an idea to the boss. He crouches with Louis Mayer (Arliss Howard) and David O. . Selznick (Toby Leonard Moore) and other film executives whose names you should recognize in the credits, if you pay attention and if you don’t recognize them, you probably won’t see Mank. One day, Mank wanders onto an MGM backlot, walks past a bunch of white men dressed up as Indian warriors, and talks to superstar actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), who happens to be with William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) , a lonely megarich newspaper tycoon, whose attempt to start a political career failed. AHA. Here we go.
Mank charms Hearst, which brings him an invitation to a soiree in the man’s castle with elephants and giraffes on the premises. In 1940 Mank works and works and receives feedback that his script jumps around too much and is too long, although he has not yet finished the first act and only has two weeks left. A box of alcohol comes out; Rita sighs. As early as 1934, Hearst and Mayer were using their leverage to push a Republican into the seat of California governor, as the Democrat Upton Sinclair is obviously a socialist and communist and all sorts of other anti-American things that could lead them to have anything less than way too much money. Mank ranks among the political propaganda films MGM produces that go well with Hearst’s signature yellow journalism – and next, as you know, they’re going to be doing suspected commies out of town! It will be finished by 1940. Back to the 30s, how drunk and how deep in debt he is. Fourth, it’s the best he’s ever done. He’s back in the new scriptwriter’s union. Back and forth. Back and forth. This is a film about how films are made that jump back and forth.
Which films will it remind you of ?: Trumbo is the far more conventional biography that reveals what happened to the communist blacklist scandal in Hollywood. Barton Fink reports on the matter with the tortured screenwriter. Hitchcock dramatizes the creation of a masterpiece, Psycho.
Our take: Mank is Inside Baseball: The movie for people who watch Turner Classic Movies endlessly. There is no blind entry; Fincher doesn’t care if you have a compass and he won’t give you one. The screenplay of the older Fincher, who has since passed away, is an indulgent meander that receives drive, drive and purpose from the notoriously meticulous directing style of his son. Oldman gives another alchemical performance, big, grandiose, clever, almost annoying in the way he delves so deeply into moments that entertain us so wildly that we absolutely realize we are watching a movie.
Visually, the film looks dangerously good, a flashing pastiche in the 1940s style and tech (including the visual cues in the corner of the screen telling the projector to switch roles, which some of us are going through have experienced watching Fincher’s Fight Club). . But Mank, the film, is not an empty suit. It shows the Hollywood products of the day as miraculous art (hint: they pretty much are), but it’s not at all nostalgic for the corrupt business ethics behind it, and that makes Mank’s life’s work a film about the moral foil of America upper crust, so important. In a dark comic scene, filthy, rich Mayer informs MGM employees that they have to take a 50 percent wage cut for eight weeks because of the Great Depression, and Mank jokes, « Not even the most shameful thing I do ever seen. ”
Structurally, the film is charmingly disheveled, like Mank when it has two and a half leaves in the wind (it’s the third leaf to worry about). . You will follow him late into the night when you are part of his insider crew, laughing at his funny lines and taking the side of his leftist politics. Like many films about films, the film is a little bit proprietary, a little too cagey, a little too complacent, often so busy with quick references that it forgets to tell a story. If you start Mank and don’t feel it, you probably haven’t seen enough classic Tinseltown – and when they do, these people feel like an outsider watching movies like this.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more about his work at johnserbaatlarge. com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Amanda Seyfried, Marion Davies, David Fincher, William Randolph Hearst, Citizen Kane, Herman J.. . Mankiewicz, Netflix, Mamma Mia!
World News – UK – Stream or skip: « Mank » on Netflix, a movie about movies that only a movie lover can love
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