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SeanC

Mank (2020)

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David Fincher returns to the cinema (kind of) after a half-decade's absence, directing a screenplay that his late father wrote in the 1990s but which never got made until now:  screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a souse with a grudge against former patron William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), is hired by Orson Welles to help script what would become Citizen Kane.  The bulk of the story is flashbacks to the early to mid-1930s, chronicling Mankiewicz's acquaintance with Heart's mistress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), the internal politics of MGM, and the external politics of California's contentious 1934 gubernatorial election.

- I liked the movie on the whole.  Fincher is an excellent craftsman, so everything looks great, as you'd expect.

- Seyfried is particularly good here, especially as she's one of the castmembers who seems to be somewhat aiming to incorporate a retro style of film acting into her performance.

- Bill Nye cameoing, from a distance, as Upton Sinclair was quite a surprise.

- The preponderance of the online discourse around this film seems to be about the validity of the film's Pauline Kael-esque vision of the authorship of the Kane screenplay, which to my mind is not what the film is really about at all, so this seems like a case of a lot of film critics missing the emphasis.

- This strikes me as the kind of movie that will get a lot of Oscar nominations but probably not summon the passion to win them.

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Ok, this sounds nitpicky, but I think they should have gone with a different font to promote this. When scrolling through Netflix options, I keep reading it as Mark or Monk 😂

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At the risk of sounding like a cultural philistine but this is a movie for only the critics to love.

The admittedly detailed craftmanship (B/W cinematography) overwhelms the premise of the film and bare bones there is no genuine driving narrative.  The film tries to drum up suspense for the gradual  reveal as to why Mank "betrayed" Hearst/Marion Davies and my impression was there isn't anything there, it's certainly not even the irony of a "Rosebud" reveal.    As others have said, the film is  not genuinely  about the making of Citizen Kane  but more Mank's ambivalence with his Hollywood existence/experience, 30's politics, Orson Welles trying to squeeze a screenplay out of Mank, and the fake facade of  tinseltown.   Yet all these narrative  threads seem half assed.  They get some "details" right, but I couldn't help but wonder to what purrpose?    I will say  It is the first time I've ever seen  the MGM wonderkind Irving Thaldberg portrayed as a duplicitous weasel. 

The title character should be magnetic/charismatic/,  Allegedly Hearst loved having Mank front and center at Hearst Castle dinners because of his wit, but as played by Gary Oldman  he's one note: washed up, bitter and self destructive throughout the film.   

However I concur with all the accolades Amanda Seyfried is getting, her Marion Davies in a relatively brief role is a fleshed out interesting person, and she conveys the ambivalence that Marion supposedly had about her own fishbowl existence as Hearst's long time  mistress.

Another distracting note:   We get that Mank was this prematurely aging self destructive person boozing his way to an early grave (though he lived 13 more years after Citizen Kane) but having said that, Gary Oldman is way too old looking.   When the character states  he's 43 ,  you do a double take.   Gary's Mank  appears older than Luis B. Mayer, WR Hearst, etc, and when the film flashbacks to 1930, when he's suppose to be a fairly youthful 33 Oldman still looking 63 + years old is just too much cognitive dissonance for me.   All the contemporary characters including his wife and brother seem decades younger than him.  Even Gary Oldman is not that good of an actor to pull off the illusion.  

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I enjoy and am very familiar with "Old Hollywood"--I've even visited Hearst Castle--and from all the pre-release buzz, I expected to love this film. I didn't hate it but I was disappointed and truly wonder to what target audience Fincher was trying to appeal. I've been reading a lot of the critics' Top Ten lists and "Mank" hasn't been on any of them so they've missed the mark.

I never truly saw the character of Mank, I saw only Gary Oldman. Not good. The rest of the cast was excellent, especially Charles Dance, whom I've loved since the '80s, and Amanda Seyfried, who was fabulous as Marion Davies, and I normally don't care for her performances! 

Overall, I'd consider it a miss and I'm sad about that but when you miscast the title character, you've got a big problem. 

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I'll be the first to admit that I'm a philistine when it comes to films such as this, but unless something went clear over my head, I think the biggest problem for me is there is no central conflict, or, any one that does come up feels completely insignificant.  What are the stakes of Mank finishing vs not finishing his script?  (that we go into already knowing gets finished anyway.)  What are the stakes of the script being made into the movie?  Why do we all of  sudden care who gets the screenwriting credit in the final 15 minutes of the movie?  I didn't even know the Welles/Mank meeting at the end was supposed to be some giant climax until I heard about it on a podcast.  It honestly hadn't occurred to me that we hadn't seen them on screen together to that point.  And if the story is more about the flashbacks, there still really isn't anything there.  To what end does it matter that Mank had this falling out with Hearst?  The election, smear propaganda, and Shelly's suicide appear to be biggest conflicts in the movie but all that takes place in the middle of the film.  And even the way the suicide was staged seemed pretty anticlimactic.  It didn't occur to Mank that maybe there were more bullets than the ones Shelly gave him and Mank shouldn't just leave a suicidal man alone with a gun?  I'm sure being more familiar with Citizen Kane than I am (I've only seen in it once) would have enhanced the viewing experience, but this movie still should have been able to stand on its own.  

 

On 12/22/2020 at 5:46 PM, caracas1914 said:

The admittedly detailed craftmanship (B/W cinematography) overwhelms the premise of the film and bare bones there is no genuine driving narrative.  The film tries to drum up suspense for the gradual  reveal as to why Mank "betrayed" Hearst/Marion Davies and my impression was there isn't anything there, it's certainly not even the irony of a "Rosebud" reveal.    As others have said, the film is  not genuinely  about the making of Citizen Kane  but more Mank's ambivalence with his Hollywood existence/experience, 30's politics, Orson Welles trying to squeeze a screenplay out of Mank, and the fake facade of  tinseltown.   Yet all these narrative  threads seem half assed.  They get some "details" right, but I couldn't help but wonder to what purrpose?   

Exactly.  I don't think the movie makes you care about any of this.  Drunk History told this story way better.

Edited by kiddo82
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I thought it looked fabulous but had no heart. I’m not sure what it is about Gary Oldman that I’m just meh on. He was hilarious in his episode of Friends, and great on The Fifth Element, and he’s good here, but, nothing special. And playing 33 at His age, just...no. I felt like I wanted more. We didn’t even get to see more of Hearst Castle, which is one of my favorite places. 

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I seem to have had a better time with this one than most of the viewers in the thread so far did. It didn't especially bother me that Oldman was playing half his age some of the time, any more than it bothers me when -- in the classic at issue -- 25-year-old Welles is playing the bitter late-in-life Kane with the help of that not-so-convincing bald wig. What mattered more to me is that Oldman carried himself like someone who really would talk in this epigrammatic, verbal-snowballs-to-the-face style, always walking a fine line between being welcomed for his wit and shunned for his abrasiveness and lack of restraint. I found Seyfried a most endearing Marion Davies, and the acting support otherwise excellent. Tom Burke really conjures the Welles voice. 

The one scene I disliked was that epic rant of Mank's at the Hearst dinner party near the end, in which the guests keep getting up and leaving the room. It's one of those stagy episodes in which it's hard to believe no one cuts the misbehaving guest off sooner.  

Of course we aren't going to be fretting with Houseman over whether the Citizen Kane script will be finished; we know the film becomes an important cinematic artifact. But in any film hinging on a subject of history, the same is true. We know the Titanic will sink, we likely know the outcome of the battle of Guadalcanal, we know the Selma march eventually does take place. Those examples are subjects of higher stakes, yes, but all of these movies dramatized the foreordained. Here, I think there's less "drama" than there is personality and texture. I suspect dramatic license has been taken with the characterizations and relationships, and I know the Shelley Metcalf character is fictionalized, but the film makes me believe in this world where all of these legends keep bumping into each other and trading their quips. It's a literate and dashing script by the elder Fincher, and the world of Hollywood in the first decade of talkies (give or take) is beautifully recreated on the craft level. It's perhaps Fincher's most amusing movie. And it has a great and uncharacteristic period-influenced score from the Reznor/Ross duo.

If it were the best of the year, it might be a down year, but I enjoyed my couple of hours with it.

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I liked everything about Mank except that I thought was dull and boring. 

It's a nothing story. And the movie is too long.

Good acting. I liked not only being filmed in black and white, it actually looked liked the movie reels were being changed.

Edited by tres bien
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Golden Globe nominations!

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

BEST DIRECTOR - David FIncher

BEST ACTOR – DRAMA - Gary Oldman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE - Amanda Seyfried

BEST SCREENPLAY - Jack Fincher

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

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I think the criticisms about the script are fair but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed the look of and acting in the film.  It had me from the upfront credits -

mank1.jpg.419f13891173f58512603c9e8cd89191.jpg

It would have been easy for Oldman to overplay this character but his nuanced and sympathetic performance was a model of restraint.

mank1snore.jpg.1dc44433b0a09bce71612dd5602d843d.jpg

The photography was beautiful.

mank1e.jpg.d274add60db01f9349b8334599c6895c.jpg

And I just love films about old Hollywood.

mank1d.jpg.8607b4bb5d3d1a2259517eb62d230409.jpg

Edited by Razzberry
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3 hours ago, Razzberry said:

I think the criticisms about the script are fair but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed the look of and acting in the film.  It had me from the upfront credits -

mank1.jpg.419f13891173f58512603c9e8cd89191.jpg

It would have been easy for Oldman to overplay this character but his nuanced and sympathetic performance was a model of restraint.

mank1snore.jpg.1dc44433b0a09bce71612dd5602d843d.jpg

The photography was beautiful.

mank1e.jpg.d274add60db01f9349b8334599c6895c.jpg

And I just love films about old Hollywood.

mank1d.jpg.8607b4bb5d3d1a2259517eb62d230409.jpg

Agree with all the above, but I still didn't like it.  It looked great, but one of my biggest quibbles was that I had no idea who was who.  They were all real life characters, but I couldn't keep them straight, in particular all the male studio execs and writers etc.  I felt they needed to have names on the screen at all times.

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Critics' Choice Award nominations!

Best Picture

Best Director - David Fincher

Best Actor - Gary Oldman

Best Supporting Actress - Amanda Seyfried

Best Original Screenplay - Jack Fincher

Best Production Design - Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale

Best Cinematography - Erik Messerschmidt

Best Costume Design - Trish Summerville

Best Editing - Kirk Baxter

Best Hair and Makeup

Best Visual Effects

Best Score - Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

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Producers Guild of America nomination!

Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)
Producers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Monica Levinson, Anthony Hines

“Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros)
Producers: Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler, Shaka King

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Producers: Denzel Washington, Todd Black

“Mank” (Netflix)
Producers: Ceán Chaffin, Eric Roth, Douglas Urbanski

“Minari” (A24)
Producer: Christina Oh

“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
Producers: Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao

“One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Producers: Jess Wu Calder, Keith Calder, Jody Klein

“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)
Producers: Josey McNamara, Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell

“Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
Producers: Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)
Producers: Marc Platt, Stuart Besser

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absolutely hated this movie. citizen kane is one of my all time favorites so this was especially disappointing. I found it pretentious, misguided, scattered, and completely without heart. boo.

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BAFTA nomination!

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
ANOTHER ROUND Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg
MANK Jack Fincher
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN Emerald Fennell
ROCKS Theresa Ikoko, Claire Wilson
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 Aaron Sorkin

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Directors Guild of America nomination!

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari (A24)
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman (Focus Features)
David Fincher, Mank (Netflix)
Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland (Searchlight Pictures)

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Oscar nominations!

Best Picture
“The Father”
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Mank”
“Minari”
“Nomadland”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

Best Director
Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”)
David Fincher (“Mank”)
Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”)
Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”)
Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”)

Best Actor
Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)
Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
Gary Oldman (“Mank”)
Steven Yeun (“Minari”)

Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)
Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)
Olivia Colman (“The Father”)
Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)
Youn Yuh-jung (“Minari”)

Best Cinematography
Sean Bobbitt (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Erik Messerschmidt (“Mank”)
Dariusz Wolski (“News of the World”)
Joshua James Richards (“Nomadland”)
Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)

Best Costume Design
“Emma”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“Mulan”
“Pinocchio”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Emma”
“Hillbilly Elegy”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“Pinocchio”

Best Original Score
“Da 5 Bloods”
“Mank”
“Minari”
“News of the World”
“Soul”

Best Production Design
“The Father”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“Mank”
“News of the World”
“Tenet”

Best Sound
“Greyhound”
“Mank”
“News of the World”
“Soul”
“Sound of Metal”

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Mank getting the most Oscar nominations is the Academy setting the bar low and failing to exceed it.  Although giving Joker and Parasite all those nominations last year was just as bad.

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On 1/23/2021 at 2:43 PM, tres bien said:

it actually looked liked the movie reels were being changed.

I noticed that, too.  This is from an interview with David Fincher 

Quote

I noticed you put in reel-change circles.
Yes, and we made the soundtrack pop like it does when you do a reel changeover. It’s one of the most comforting sounds in my life. They’re so little that they’re very difficult to hear until you hear them. It has what we ended up calling patina, these tiny little pops and crackles that happen, and they’re very beautiful.

I now wish I'd read the article before seeing the movie, because I didn't notice the pop.

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On 12/11/2020 at 5:01 AM, GussieK said:

I found it tedious in the extreme. An excuse to show off knowledge of movie making trivia. 

This so much. Tedious is the perfect summation for me, as it took me three separate tries to get through the film. I kept falling asleep the first two times I tried to watch it and had to keep rewinding scenes I'd missed over and over. I finally made it through on attempt number 3. 

Many have summed up exactly what the issue was with the film. It was pretty to look at but ultimately it was about everything and nothing all at once. Like on the surface there was so much happening - the political climate at the time that intertwined with and influenced the studios, Mank's personal demons and issues, his battle with the MGM execs, as well as his history with Hearst, hell even the stenographer had her missing husband story. 

And yet it still felt like nothing really happened for two hours. The Charlie character we meet early in the film, who correct me if I'm wrong was Marion's nephew, is all but forgotten until he pops up again near the end to deliver some 5 minute criticism at Mank. And I have the perhaps unpopular opinion of not being particularly wowed by Seyfried either. She was okay but it was all just so dull.

Basically this felt like a film that tried very hard to convince the audience that it was stellar movie making. A film that ironically takes itself so seriously while telling the story of a drunk screenwriter that spent his time ragging on a lot of the egos and bullshit of Hollywood at the time. And the end result was just a dull and tedious pretentious film. 

On 3/15/2021 at 1:55 PM, benteen said:

Mank getting the most Oscar nominations is the Academy setting the bar low and failing to exceed it.  Although giving Joker and Parasite all those nominations last year was just as bad.

Does it really matter about the numerous nominations when it won't win most, if any of them? It won't win Best Picture, Oldman's not winning Best Actor, Fincher won't win Director, Seyfried will not win Supporting Actress, etc. At best it may get some technical awards, particularly Production Design and maybe Cinematography. 

Edited by truthaboutluv
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Costume Designers Guild Award nomination!

Excellence in Period Film
Emma – Alexandra Byrne
Judas and the Black Messiah – Charlese Antoinette Jones
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom – Ann Roth
Mank – Trish Summerville
One Night in Miami – Francine Jamison-Tanchuck

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I feel like no way would this picture be getting a Best Picture nomination except that it's a movie about Hollywood, and Hollywood can't get enough of that. I also don't think David Fincher would have gone anywhere near it if his father hadn't written it.

Seyfried's performance was good, as others have pointed out. But was the real Marion Davies as "OK" with the Kane screenplay as the movie's Marion Davies was? I have a hard time believing that. If there's substantiation to that effect, I'd like to hear it.

I also had a hard time buying John Houseman as an officious mediocrity. His name, as producer, is on any number of estimable films and plays before and after Kane. Gosh, I guess all that great work (in some cases pioneering work) just produced itself.

Certain incidents in Mank are no doubt based on actual ones. But from the get-go to the very end, I just didn't feel like the movie was telling me the truth. Even for fictionalized history, that's a fatal error.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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