Could Mank Still Have A Chance At Oscar Glory?

gary oldman mank

A year ago, film pundits and fans predicted David Fincher’s biopic on legendary screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, Mank (2020), would be the latest successful Oscar bait. Hollywood loves movies about their own industry, after all. Then eight months later the film was released on Netflix. But it only got a moderate reaction from critics and viewers.

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I know there’s an unusual lack of contenders this awards season. Or maybe the Academy truly does like Mank. Either way, Fincher’s movie still managed to garner ten whopping nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (Fincher), Best Actor (Gary Oldman), and Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried). Surprisingly, one of Mank’s many noms is not posthumously for its screenwriter. Fincher’s father, Jack, started this feature as a vanity project in 1997 before his death in 2003.

 
 
 
 
 
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Filmed in stunning B&W and with tiny easter eggs like artificial reel change marks in the corner of some shots; Mank follows back-and-forth between Hollywood in the early 1930s and a ranch in Victorville, CA in 1940. ‘Mank’ is respected screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Oldman) near the end of his career as new wonder boy Welles (Tom Burke) recruits him to help pen the script for his debut film. The future classic is set to be loosely (but clearly) based on real-life newspaper mogul W.R. Hearst (Charles Dance) as well as his mistress Marion Davies (Seyfried).

 
 
 
 
 
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Lily Collins co-stars as Mankiewicz’s pretty, young transcriber, while Arliss Howard, Ferdinand Kingsley and Toby Leonard Moore appear as infamous studio heads L.B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg and David O. Selznick. The first thing to note about Mank is that it is 100% all about Mankiewicz. Welles only gets about five scenes of screen time, and unfortunately for Welles fans, they’re not the most flattering. There’s also a distracting bit of casting where we have Gary Oldman—62 years old upon release—and Tuppence Middleton—aged 33—cast as Herman and his wife Sara, when in reality there was no prominent age gap between the couple.

 
 
 
 
 
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The first half of Mank has the typical glamourization we usually get with biopics set in the old Hollywood era, and feels a little indulgent at times. The film then drags some during the second act when Mankiewicz tries to persuade Thalberg not to smear California Governor candidate Upton Sinclair through MGM. Whenever we get screen portrayals of the Hearst/Davies relationship, I’m always a little skeptical as a longtime fan of Davies, since most just play her as the dumb blonde cliché. But to my surprise, both Seyfried and Fincher do her justice this time around and it might be my favorite performance from Seyfried to date. It’s also a trip to hear a retro, jazzy music score co-composed from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, of all people.

As a whole, I think Mank fits the definition of fine. Technically it looks good and the actors are great, but the movie would probably do more for someone who isn’t already super familiar with the history of Kane. And though Seyfried seems to now have some competition with fellow nominee Mara Bakalova — for Jason Moliner’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — Seyfried has my support for Supporting Actress.

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Have you seen Gary Oldman in Mank yet? Do you think it deserves 10 Oscar nominations? Let us know in the comments!


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