Mank

Posted on December 2, 2020 at 12:00 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some language
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 4, 2020

Copyright Netflix 2020
“Mank” is a big, breathtakingly ambitious, multii-layered story of Herman Mankiewicz, the man who wrote the original screenplay for what many people consider the greatest film ever made, “Citizen Kane.” This was a passion project for one of the most passionate and meticulous, film-loving directors in Hollywood, David Fincher, partly because the original script for this film was written by his late father, Jack, the sole credited screenwriter.

“Mank” is firmly rooted in its period, down to the black and white film with high ceilings and shadowy images, paying tribute to “Citizen Kane” and other films of that era, it is, like most films set in a different time, very much in conversation with and commentary on where we are today. So. the settings are re-created with exquisite precision and any old Hollywood cinephiles will be overjoyed to be able to visit the office of legendary producer Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley) or sit in on a writers’ conference featuring the men who wrote films like Charles Lederer (the original “Oceans 11,” “His Girl Friday,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” played by Joseph Cross) and Ben Hecht (“Scarface,” “Gunga Din,” played by Jeff Harms. They will also get a kick out of the faux “cue marks,” the circles in the upper right-hand corners of the frame to let the theater projectionist know when it was time to get ready to change reels, long disappeared from movies in the digital era.

And then there is San Simeon, the unimaginably lavish Hearst castle built by the unimaginably wealthy William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). He was the heir to a gold mining fortune and a political dynasty. He became the owner of the country’s largest media empire, which he used to push his political priorities. Is the commentary on today coming into focus?

Herman Mankiewicz was brilliant, sardonic, cynical, and a raging alcoholic and gambler. He ruefully notes that his wife is always referred to as ‘poor Sarah” (“Downton Abbey’s” Tuppence Middleton). He was a real-life version of those journalists in the wild wild West days of newspapers, as often portrayed by Clark Gable. He famously sent a telegram to Ben Hecht (in the movie version to Charles Lederer encouraging him to come to Hollywood: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.”

A brilliant trouble-maker of an enfant terrible from radio and theater named Orson Welles (Tom Burke) has been given free rein to make a movie, what he would later call “the The biggest electric train set any boy ever had.” He asks Mankiewicz, recovering from a leg injury, to write the script and puts him in a remote cabin with a secretary (Lily Collins as Rita Alexander) to keep him away from “distractions,” meaning booze and gambling.

Like “Citizen Kane,” the movie goes back and forth in time, the flashbacks illuminating the movie’s present, especially the inspiration for the title character, who would be played by the 25-year-old director himself. We see moments and characters and ideas sparking the ideas in the screenplay. And we see the painful and often self-destructive force of an intellect that is so deeply cynical only because at heart he is so deeply idealistic.

Mank’s warm friendship with Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) is at the heart of the movie. He can be honest with her because she is honest with him and because, unlike “poor Sarah,” he does not feel, at least in the earlier days of their relationship, that he is letting her down. Davies was the long-time romantic partner of Hearst, who was married to someone else. He ordered his newspapers to write about her frequently, leading to the joke that every story about a Hollywood event had the line “And Marion Davies looked lovely.” (Because of the Susan Alexander character in “Citizen Kane,” the second wife Kane insisted on promoting as an opera singer with disastrous results, people often think Davies was untalented, but she was a lovely light comedienne with a charming presence on screen.)

Because of Davies, Mankiewicz is often a guest at San Simeon and has a cordial relationship with Hearst, until Hearst’s opposition to the progressive California gubernatorial candidate Upton Sinclair (cannily played by Science Guy Bill Nye) and the movie studios’ anti-Sinclair propaganda “news” films lead to intolerable behavior in social gatherings — and to the corrupt, lonely former idealist Charles Foster Kane.

It is pure pleasure to see a film that respects the audience enough to take on big issues with complexity, humanity, and wit, every careful detail and layered performance providing much to think about and many questions about our own time and how it will be seen eighty years from now, if we are lucky enough to have filmmakers of this quality.

Parents should know that this movie includes strong language, alcoholism and other addictive behavior, some sexual references, and references to the Holocaust.

Family discussion: Who is most like William Randolph Hearst today? Most like Upton Sinclair? Why did Mank change his mind about wanting credit for the movie? Was he fair to Marion Davies?

If you like this, try: “Citizen Kane” and the book about the film by Pauline Kael, Mank: The wit, world, and life of Herman Mankiewicz, and other films by and about the Mankiewicz brothers and Welles. And see some of Marion Davies’ films like “Peg o’ My Heart” and “Show People.”

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Biography Drama movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews

Yes, Citizen Kane Is That Great

Posted on September 5, 2016 at 11:14 am

Here some movie greats explain what they love about the movie many people consider the greatest of all time, Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.”

If you want a treat, after you’ve watched the movie, watch it again with Roger Ebert’s brilliant shot by shot analysis.

Related Tags:

 

Film History Movie History
ir.gif

Orson Welles: Happy First Century

Posted on May 8, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Happy 100th birthday to the writer/director/star of one of the greatest films of all time, Citizen Kane. Everyone should see that movie, and then everyone should see it again, listening to Roger Ebert’s shot-by-shot commentary, a master illuminating a master and together both of them illuminating the best and worst of the human spirit.

Turner Classic Movies has a great tribute to Mr. Welles every Friday this month, with some of this best and least known films, hosted by one of my favorite critics, David Edelstein.

Don’t miss:

Touch of Evil

The Third Man

The Lady From Shanghai

Jane Eyre

The Magnificent Ambersons

And don’t forget: “The Stranger,” “The VIPs,” “Chimes at Midnight,” “F for Fake,” and pretty much everything else Welles ever worked on.

Related Tags:

 

Actors Classic Directors Film History For Your Netflix Queue Writers

Limited Time Offer from Amazon: Warners Best, 100 Films for About $2 Each

Posted on September 11, 2014 at 3:26 pm

This is an amazing deal. For a limited time, Amazon is offering a collection of 100 Warner Brothers classics at 75 percent off. Best of Warner Bros 100 Film Collection, including 22 Best Picture winners, a limited edition 27 x 40 poster, two Warner Bros. documentaries, and more, just $!49.99 until September 13, 2014. You’d pay more than this for just ten films. If there’s a movie-lover in your life, now’s a good time to do your holiday shopping.

The films are:

1. The Jazz Singer (1927)
2. Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929)
3. The Public Enemy (1931)
4. Cimarron (1931)
5. Grand Hotel (1932)
6. 42nd Street (1933)
7. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
8. A Night at the Opera (1935)
9. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
10. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
11. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
12. Dark Victory (1939)
13. Gone with The Wind (1939)
14. Wizard of Oz (1939)
15. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
16. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
17. Citizen Kane (1941)
18. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
19. Casablanca (1943)
20. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
21. Gaslight (1944)
22. Anchors Aweigh (1944)
23. Mildred Pierce (1945)
24. Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
25. The Big Sleep (1946)
26. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
27. An American in Paris (1951)
28. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
29. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
30. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
31. A Star Is Born (1954)
32. East of Eden (1955)
33. Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
34. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
35. Giant (1956)
36. The Searchers (1956)
37. A Face in the Crowd (1957)
38. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
39. Gigi (1958)
40. Ben-Hur (1959)
41. North By Northwest (1959)
42. How the West Was Won (1962)
43. What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
44. Viva Las Vegas (1964)
45. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
46. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
47. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
48. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
49. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
50. Bullitt (1968)
51. The Wild Bunch (1969)
52. Dirty Harry (1971)
53. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
54. Cabaret (1972)
55. A Clockwork Orange (1972)
56. Enter the Dragon (1973)
57. The Exorcist (1973)
58. Blazing Saddles (1974)
59. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
60. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
61. All The President’s Men (1976)
62. Superman, The Movie (1977)
63. Caddyshack (1980)
64. The Shining (1980)
65. Clash of the Titans (1981)
66. Chariots of Fire (1981)
67. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
68. The Outsiders (1983)
69. The Right Stuff (1983)
70. Risky Business (1983)
71. Amadeus (1984)
72. The Color Purple (1985)
73. The Goonies (1985)
74. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
75. Lethal Weapon (1987)
76. Batman (1989)
77. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
78. Goodfellas (1990)
79. The Bodyguard (1992)
80. Unforgiven (1992)
81. The Fugitive (1993)
82. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
83. Natural Born Killers (Director’s Cut) (1994)
84. Shawshank Redemption (1994)
85. Seven (1995)
86. L.A. Confidential (1997)
87. The Matrix (1999)
88. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
89. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
90. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
91. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
92. The Notebook (2004)
93. Million Dollar Baby (2005)
94. The Departed (2006)
95. 300 (2007)
96. The Dark Knight (2008)
97. The Blind Side (2009)
98. The Hangover (2009)
99. Sherlock Holmes (2009)
100. Inception (2010)

Related Tags:

 

Classic Movie History Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families Neglected gem

Is “Vertigo” the Greatest Movie of All Time?

Posted on August 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Every ten years, the prestigious film journal Sight & Sound polls critics and film-makers on the greatest films of all time.  Citizen Kane has led the list for decades, but this year it was toppled by Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. While I would vote for “Citizen Kane” if they offered me a ballot, I think it is a good idea to take a fresh look.  The point of polls and lists is to start a discussion, not to end one.  And the changing perceptions of the films on the list say more about our times than they do about the inherent, absolute merits of the film.

“Vertigo” stars James Stewart as a former cop impaired by a paralyzing fear of heights who is unable to save a woman he was hired to protect when she commits suicide by jumping from a bell tower.  When he later meets another woman who strongly resembles the first (both played by Kim Novak), he becomes obsessed with making her over to re-create the woman who died.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0bV2gh4E7Y

These results were released the same week that Tippi Hedren, who starred in Hitchcock’s “Marnie” and “The Birds,” said that he ruined her career but not her life, with obsessive, creepy, sexual harassment.  A forthcoming HBO film, “The Girl” stars Toby Jones and Sienna Miller as Hitchcock and Hedren.  These claims/revelations about what may have inspired or influenced the themes of obsession and fixation and repression in “Vertigo” and other Hitchcock films recontextualize the films as well.

Roger Ebert has some important insights about the list and the inherent limits of any reductionist attempt at ranking works of art.

What surprised me this year is–how little I was surprised. I believed a generational shift was taking place, and that as the critics I grew up with faded away, young blood would add new names to the list. Kieslowski, perhaps. Herzog. Fassbinder. Scorsese. Lynch. Wong Kar-Wai.

What has happened is the opposite. This year’s 846 voters looked further into the past. The most recent film in the critics’ top ten, as it has been for years, is Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). The two new films are silent: Vertov’s “Man With a Movie Camera” (1929), and Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928). Murnau’s great silent “Sunrise” (1927) is also on the list–three silents out of ten, and no Chaplin, Keaton or Eisenstein.

Why not more recent directors? To make the list, a director is punished if too many of his films are voted for. He needs an “official masterpiece.” With Buster Keaton that film used to be “The General,” but after the restoration of all of his films his votes have become scattered, I suspect, among “Sherlock Jr.,” “Steamboat Bill Jr.” and other treasures.

But his most important point is this: “let’s remember that all movie lists, even this most-respected one, are ultimately meaningless. Their tangible value is to provide movie lovers with viewing ideas.”  So, for your Netflix queue, here are the new Sight & Sound lists:

The Critics’ Top Ten Greatest Films of All Time:

Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
La Règle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)
Sunrise: a Song for Two Humans (Murnau, 1927)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, 1927)
10. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)

The Directors’ Top Ten Greatest Films of All Time: 

1. Tokyo Story (Ozu, 1953)
2. (tie) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
2. (tie) Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
4. 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
5. Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
6. Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
7. (tie) The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
7. (tie) Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
9. Mirror (Tarkovsky, 1974)
10 Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948)

 

Related Tags:

 

Classic Critics For Your Netflix Queue Lists
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik