How much of a juggernaut or a chugging locomotive is David Fincher‘s Mank? N.Y. Times “Carpetbagger” columnist Kyle Buchanan has posted an assessment of the situation.
Mank is a comer, he says. It even has “the look of a potential juggernaut.” Yeah, it does — I agree. I said this two or three days ago, but one mark of an excellent film is immediately wanting to see it another couple of times. That’s how I felt after last Thursday’s viewing.
Except it’s quite the smarthouse thing — gently or obliquely emotional but mostly a Hollywood lore head-trip movie, And it’s aimed almost solely at seasoned, well-educated film sophistos. Which is one reason why guys like San Francisco Chronicle critic Bob Strauss are doing cartwheels.
Brilliant and savory as it is, Mank is mostly about the ways of genius mixed with the rigorous discipline of writing, the slow ways of alcohol poisoning and the complexities of studio politics.
It could be argued that a deeper, sadder emotional current can be found in Chloe Zhao‘s Nomadland, which is probably Mank‘s strongest Best Picture competitor as we speak.
Yes, there’s something inscrutable about Frances McDormand‘s lead character — a woman who declines a third-act offer of love, companionship and financial security. It’s a head scratcher that leaves you with an inescapable conclusion — i.e., that she’s finally a tragic character.
There’s a “fake news” subplot in Mank (about a pre-scripted, Louis B. Mayer-funded newsreel hit job against California gubernatorial candidate Upton Sinclair) that injects a certain offer present-day relevance. And yet Nomadland is more rooted in 21st Century angst and anxiety. It comes from the Great Recession of ten years ago. It’s Grapes of Wrath-y.
And yet, speaking as the son of an alcoholic who entered AA in his mid 50s and a sober person myself for the last 8 1/2 years, I thought it was significant that I gradually relaxed and grew fond of Oldman and his performance. I haven’t much room for boozing characters as a rule (hanging with Albert Finney‘s drunk in Under The Volcano was a chore for me), but I came to feel for Gary’s Mankiewicz, for who he was deep down.
Buchanan: “In a year bereft of major action spectaculars and blockbuster theatrical releases, Mank has the opportunity to cut a wide swath through the technical categories, notching nods for its high-end production design, editing and costumes.” HE: No argument whatsoever.
But of course, he doesn’t mention the elephant in the room, which is the climate of woke terror that has all but completely taken hold (i.e., been submitted to) in progressive circles, and which faintly haunts every conversation.
It’s not written on parchment or carved in stone that the Academy can no longer give a Best Picture Oscar to a movie that’s entirely about elite, old-school cisgender white guys, but you know that a certain portion of the Academy believes this is a dicey porposition.
This is partly, I believe, why Martin Scorsese‘s masterful The Irishman was so widely dismissed last year. Nobody wanted to embrace another white guy movie, not to mention another Scorsese goombah gangster story. It didn’t fit the vision of the New Academy Kidz. They preferred to celebrate an overlong, good-but-not-great Bong Joon-ho social-portraiture flick with a massive second-act plothole and a prolonged, vaguely shitty ending.
I’m speaking of a general mindset among younger, fringier, multicultural and international Academy voters — those who became members over the last three years after Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Dawn Hudson sought to change the character of the Academy by diminishing the influence of 60-plus white guys.
So basically…what? Fincher wins Best Director and Nomadland wins Best Picture? Or vice versa?