I kept thinking about #QuentinTarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" as I watched #DavidFincher's new movie "Mank." That's not a put down. As a matter of fact just the opposite. I enjoyed "Mank." "Mank" written by Mr. Fincher's father, Jack Fincher, is about the screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz and his experience writing the great American film, "Citizen Kane."
Herman is played by the great #GaryOldman who is fun to watch as he navigates the political and studio minefields of the day. The picture is littered with names of a by gone era such as the two top bosses of MGM, Louis B. Mayer (#ArlissHoward) and Irving Thalberg (#FerdinandKingsley), the great movie producer, David O. Selznick (#TobyLeonardMoore), the hot literary writer, Upton Sinclair and the man best known for the film "Citizen Kane," Orson Welles (#TomBurke). And a side note, here. I guess this is under the category of Sound Effects but they nail the voice of Orson Welles. As distinctive as it is Mr. Burke sounds just like him. They did a great job of sincing old recordings of his voice to use as dialogue. It gave me chills it was so good. They and many more are forces for and against the making of "Citizen Kane." The film Mank and Welles wants to make is about the tycoon William Randolph Hearst probably the most powerful man in the country since he runs most of the newspapers in America. It is ill advised since they paint Hearst in an unflattering light.
Mank gets to know Hearst through Hearst's girlfriend Marion Davies, #AmandaSeyfried. Ms. Seyfried is the real treat of "Mank." Marion is a failed actress who gets her roles through Hearst. He spends his money on productions with the understanding they cast his girlfriend in them. As portrayed in "Citizen Kane" Marion is not a bright bulb. That was the perception around the real life character as well. Ms. Seyfried brings many dimensions to her portrayal of the character. She seems out of her depth when she's with Hearst at his parties talking politics. But as written by Mr. Jack Fincher and interpreted by Ms. Seyfried its quite possible that their topic of conversation just doesn't interest her. When she does contribute to the conversation she is quietly mock about her level of knowledge. But with people she's well versed. Ms. Seyfried gives her an intelligence that's fun to watch as she spares with Mank. For someone who sees "Citizen Kane" at least once a year this was a refreshing portrayal of Marian Davies.
There's a lot that this film tackles: studio bosses who don't want to make a film upsetting a powerful player, the political atmosphere, the studio bosses cutting workers salaries in half without touching theirs on the eve of World War II, Sinclair running on a pro-workers theme which the studio bosses work at destroying and Mank's alcoholism.
He's a mess of a drunk and that's a liability when things as deadlines come into play. It's up to Welles' right hand man, producer John Houseman (#SamTroughton)- who had an acting career later in life that earned him an Oscar and a nice paying commercial for Smith Barney the investment group- to light a fire under Mank so he can complete the work. The bouncing back and forth in time from Houseman's chores to the other events keeps the mind from wandering.
Which brings me back to Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." As I watched Tarantino's film I thought who other then myself, who loves cinema and the history surrounding it, and history in general, will get this movie? There's a lot of introspection of the film business from the sixties. And I thought modern audiences, especially those who don't have any background in cinema history might be turned off by the movie. Its the same thought that raced through my mind as I watched "Mank." The difference however, is that Tarantino's film has scenes that can entertain a modern audience; the Bruce Lee confrontation, DiCaprio being upstaged by a little girl and having a meltdown in his trailer and of course the blow torching of the Manson family.
"Mank" doesn't have any of these. That maybe trouble for today's audience but not for me. The tie ins from the pay cuts to the Sinclair campaign are all history that I'm aware of and found plenty to enjoy while watching. I also enjoyed watching the players from the golden era of cinema being portrayed by a wonderful cast of actors. Every new character introduction was exciting, every new scene a treat. I don't know if a modern audience will find the same pleasure. I liked this movie a lot but I am biased. It can be found on #Netflix.