2021 Oscar Reviews: Mank

For the past several years, I’ve attempted to watch as many Oscar-nominated films as possible, and for the past two years I have written reviews of each film and posted them to this blog. Alas, I always run out of time and cannot see everything. This year’ ceremony has been delayed and the nominees are yet to be announced, giving me a chance to get an oxymoronic late jump-start on this year’s anticipated nominees. Today we cover…

Mank

[10 nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried), Best Original Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Original Score, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling]

Mank is a very well-done film. But that doesn’t mean you’ll like watching it. It is a film built for connoisseurs and enthusiasts of film and film history, and not really a movie for the masses to enjoy. Basically, the more you know about Citizen Kane, the history behind it, and the filmmaking of the time, the more likely you are to understand what is happening, both in terms of storytelling and in terms of visuals. Someone entering the film completely cold will find it, frankly, super boring.

But, if you’re watching it at home instead of in a theatre (as you likely are, due to the covid/Netflix combo), the film may pique enough curiosity to start going down some google rabbitholes to look every various aspects of the film. This is the bucket in which I found myself watching this. And the more I kept looking up various aspects of the film, the more I appreciated and enjoyed it. I am also confident that, if I was viewing through a more informed lens, I would likely be catching easter eggs and thoughtful details throughout the film. There have to be Wells references, cinematographic artifacts, and factual tidbits going right over my head.

But even to my uneducated mind, it is clear that David Finch has done an exquisite and impresive job with both his script and his directing. So I assume he’ll receive much-deserved nominations in those two categories. Gary Oldman is solid as always as the titular character Herman Mankiewicz, and he’s surrounded by a thoroughly capable supporting cast, including Amanda Seyfried, British superstar Charles Dance (sporting a rare American accent), and even a very brief appearance of Bill Nye the Science Guy as Upton Sinclair. I could see Oldman receiving a nod for best actor, but I don’t think any of the supporting roles were juicy enough to showcase the rest of the cast’s acting chops. Still, on paper, this movie has everything going for it and could even be a leader for best picture.

And yet…

As a stand-alone film… it’s just kinda meh.

As an exercise in filmmaking, sure, it’s perfect. A+! I can very much appreciate it. But I dunno, this movie was not interesting enough to get me excited.


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