The conservative critic, Oscar Watch: Mank
The most nominated film of the season and would-be favorite for Best Picture (fortunately it does not hit any of the chic political topics of the day so its likely to be ousted by Minari which is yet to be reviewed by the Conservative Critic or Nomadland which would be very deserving of the ouster).
In order to appreciate Mank, I rewatched Citizen Kane whose writer the film is based on (Herman Mankieweics) and which conceptually the film intentionally appropriates.
I hated Citizen Kane the first time I saw it (because it is incredibly boring) and I hated it again the second time (this time I also found it pretty sexist). I also hated Mank. I went in knowing I would hate it to be fair, so I didn’t have an open mind. But I was correct. It was terrible and no one should watch it.
What makes it so bad? The Conservative Critic will answer three questions: “Is it entertaining?” “Does it have artistic/intellectual value?” and most importantly “Is it liberal propaganda?”
Mank Meter Check
Overall Rating: Miserable
For some reason, filmies everywhere tend to insist they love the movie Citizen Kane. Do not trust these people. 99% of the time they’re lying and haven’t even seen Citizen Kane and only know to reference “Rosebud” from other pop cultural references. The other 1% I can’t account for except to say: why?
For Director David Fincher to nearly totally recreate Citizen Kane based on the life of its writer, Herman Mankieweics (“Mank”) is truly the epitome of gall and the biggest insult to moviegoers’ intelligence since The Artist (winner of Best Picture in 2012 for the sheer fact that people thought they’d hate it a lot more than they actually did). Clearly Fincher who was robbed of his Oscar for his brilliant film, The Social Network, set out with the clear intention to make an insipidly pandering movie using a formula which already won an Oscar and had no interest whatsoever in bringing any kind of life or interest to his subject matter.
Mank is tedious, dry, derivative, tired, poorly acted (with one exception) and badly thought. You should under no circumstances be tricked into watching this Netflix produced atrocity.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Mind numbingly dull
As if Citizen Kane wasn’t boring enough, Mank deigns to force us to revisit the exact same storyline which inspired Kane in the first place. At an excruciating 2 hours and 11 minutes of “period” dialog, Kane reached a point of boredom so extreme that I actually became angry.
The viewer will make it half way before wondering – is this story going to be any less obvious and pointless or no? Did they actually just remake Citizen Kane?
It is clear that the entire concept of the film is made to redeem Marion Davies (played by Amanda Seyfried) who was abhorrently portrayed as a drunk and silly gold digging subpar singer (the character Susan Alexander) in Citizen Kane. The film does redeem Davies, rightly so, but there simply is not material for a 2 hour soliloquy on the matter.
Intolerable in its beating of a dead horse (Mank is an eccentric alcoholic and you’re doing a whole period newsie speak thing we GET IT), Mank never actually ends. It does not end. I swear to God it was actually TRYING to be dull.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Mank is the worst kind of Hollywood pandering drivel that the masses drink up. Shot in black and white for the only purpose of making it comparable to Citizen Kane, the film found no way to bring us life where we lost color.
Deciding to use old timey newsie speak and dialog akin to Citizen Kane, there is not an ounce of humanity in the entire film. Fincher made every single pretentious choice he could possibly make in order to basically get on all fours and beg for an Oscar. It’s boring, it’s done to death, it’s predictable and it’s insulting to the intelligence and taste of its viewers.
This is the kind of film that just gets under my skin (can you tell?). Citizen Kane was already the kind of film which got under my skin and this one is just that but repeated and less interesting.
The only redeeming quality – singular – is Amanda Seyfried’s (Mamma Mia, Les Miserable) surprisingly nuanced performance. It’s not surprising that Seyfried performed well, she’s very talented, it’s surprising that she managed it while swimming through a molasses vat of monologues and ~meaningful~ stares. Seyfried manages to bring a small glimmer of humanity to her role as Marion Davies and truly redeems the actress whose reputation was skewered by Citizen Kane’s cartoonish depiction of her relationship with newspaper mogul William Hearst (the subject of Citizen Kane). Her performance through the ridiculous “period” makeup and costume and the even more ridiculous dialog is truly shocking. If anyone tells you they enjoyed Mank, I would bet what they mean is: I really liked Amanda Seyfried in Mank.
Everyone else’s performances were so far over the top I think the actors may have left the atmosphere and technically become a part of Space Force. Gary Oldman’s (The Dark Knight, The Darkest Hour) nomination for Best Actor is everything I hate about Hollywood and I usually really like Gary Oldman’s performances. I hate how this already Academy Award winning actor who has brought to life beloved characters like Sirius Black in Harry Potter and Commissioner Gordon from the Batman franchise is being praised for running around shouting and sweating without an ounce of tangible relatability. He’s better than the role, he is better than the performance and we are better than pretending it was good.
The one performance I was eager to see was Tom Burke as Orson Wells. Burke plays the titular character in the TV series adaptation of JK Rowling’s detective series project (written in the pen name Robert Galbraith), CB Strike and he does a phenomenal job. He was fine as Wells. Forgettable. A tragic waste of talent.
I do not believe that Fincher actually thinks he made a masterpiece (because The Social Network and Gone Girl were both actual masterpieces). I simply do not believe that. I do think he believes he made a film that the Academy would fall over themselves to award. And he was correct.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Yes but it was so boring I almost can’t even tell you
It was truly so hard to pay attention because it was so boring but there were some definite traces of liberal self righteousness.
First, Mank is an addict and there is an explicit line in the film where one of his maids says “he’s a good man so if he wants to drink he can drink.” Ugh. Hollywood pretends that addiction isn’t real and that good artists all have substance abuse issues. As if substance abuse is part of art itself. Addiction destroys people and families and it should not be portrayed flippantly like “oh he’s a good man he can have a drink.” No, Fincher, no that is not correct. And if you have ever had an addict ruin your life and their own with only regard for getting their next fix and nothing else you would never have put that careless, vile line in the film let alone the overall idea that Mank’s addiction is part of his genius.
But also there is this sense that artists – despite being drunken clowns – are above the hard working wealthy. Citizen Kane manages to celebrate the invention of fake news while simultaneously indicting its inventor (Hearst) not for his participation in the mass spread of slant and bias but for being wealthy. Mank carries the same themes with almost no remorse or self awareness and distances Hearst even further from his journalistic beginnings in an effort to absolve the left media from their role in widespread lying to the American people.
Mank is going to take some awards for which it absolutely does not deserve. Bet on that. For once: thank politics it will not likely rob Chloe Zhao of best director and it won’t likely get Best Picture. If it does, expect a thorough diatribe from me on twitter @jennifer_zilla.
Do not watch Mank. Also don’t watch Citizen Kane. Save yourself.