'Mank' And The Impertinence For The Golden Age of Hollywood
By Sal LoCicero | December 7, 2020
December has arrived, and you know what that means...Oscar Season!! With 2020’s presence in the world, many streaming services more than ever have been preparing for competition. Streaming services like Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV, Hulu, Prime Video, and of course Netflix have all had quite the year for movies and acclaim.
Netflix has been involved with the Oscars since 2014, with their documentary feature “The Square”. However, as time has gone by, controversy has grown towards Netflix and the evolution of Streaming Services. In 2019, Netflix and Academy Award winning director Alfonso Cuarón collaborated on ‘Roma’ which won Best Foreign Language feature, and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In 2020, two features in the Best Picture category were Netflix features; The Irishman, and Marriage Story. This has all gained controversy, with many filmmakers arguing that Netflix and other streaming services are destroying the movie theater business.
Since this year has turned out to be what it is, studios have either been delaying their features or just sending them off to streaming. Many famous filmmakers; like Martin Scorsese, Alfonso Cuarón, Noah Baumbach, and even David Fincher have switched over to streaming.
Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, The Social Network) who is now known for his Netflix series “Mindhunter”, has switched over from working with big studio companies to working with Netflix. Recently, it was reported that David Fincher had signed a four-year deal with Netflix. A month ago, Fincher also attacked Todd Philips’s Joker and its star Joaquin Phoenix, calling his performance a "betrayal of the mentally ill". Although it is understandable why he would comment on such a film due to his filmography covering films like Fight Club, Seven, and his show Mindhunter. Fincher is mostly known for making Psychological thrillers.
Instead of sticking to his boundaries, Fincher has decided to stick his nose into the Golden Age of Hollywood with his latest feature from Netflix “Mank”; a biography about Herman J. Mankiewicz, (writer of Citizen Kane) which depicts his life back and forth from when he wrote the screenplay to Citizen Kane (Which he argued credit for) to the time he met William Randolph Hearst, while working at MGM.
When people first heard that David Fincher would be directing a film about the background behind “The Greatest Film Of All Time”, it got many excited. For one thing, it was directed by David Fincher. Another, was that everyone was surprised that Fincher was gonna work on a story like this, due to the fact that he doesn’t make any other movies except for thrillers. Before Mank was released, it gave off similar vibes as “Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood” because it was a movie that gave off so much potential for its story, the time that it covered, the cast, and of course writer/director Quentin Tarantino going off to make a movie like that. Mank is also written by Jack Fincher; David’s father, who wrote the script to this movie a long time ago. So, it makes more sense why David Fincher chose to step out of the same category of filmmaking to direct Mank.
Now, Mank is the kind of movie that you would think is a worthy love letter to Golden Age Hollywood and what surrounded that era; which it does cover. Gary Oldman gives another great performance and is the best part of the entire movie. You would think that Mank would be a great movie with people behind the camera that are aware of exactly what they’re doing, but one of the main problems with Mank is that it’s distributed by Netflix and with it feels like Fincher made his own betrayal to Hollywood. When you are creating a film about retro Hollywood no matter what year or decade, you need to treat it with the most amount of respect and passion in order for it to succeed and for film enthusiasts to eat it up. Quentin Tarantino did exactly that, he gave off such a huge amount of love for the late 60s and cinema. You could tell how much he’s missed that era. Robert Richardson (Director of Photography) even shot “Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood” on 35mm film to give it that feel, and if you watched the movie, you would notice it.
Yes, Mank is filmed in Black and White, it also is edited to look like a movie that came out in the forties, the sound mixing and editing are also a good edition. All of these aspects are pros. If Fincher and the other people behind the camera took the time to even think about how to give Mank the proper feels, they would’ve tried to get their hands on a Mitchell BNC Camera which was used to shoot Citizen Kane. Instead of choosing an aspect ratio of 2.20:1, they would’ve given it a 1.33:1 aspect ratio; which was the aspect ratio for most features in that era. Erik Messerschmidt (Director of Photography)shot Mank in 8K, and then degraded it to look like a picture from the early-forties.
The story is very intriguing, and (obviously) has similar vibes as Citizen Kane. Herman J. Mankiewicz is similar to Charles Foster Kane in that they both are flawed human beings, who fail the people who care for them. Mankiewicz is a raging alcoholic who flirts with women while he is married. Charles Foster Kane is an incredibly rich man who has an affair with his wife, and upsets the people around him. So, there are many similarities to these two characters.
David Fincher doesn’t even give off a sense of care for Mank. Mank offers a halfass technical effort by its cinematographer and editor. The first and second acts will remind you of the movies of the time, unlike its third act which has already thrown itself in the lost and found bin.
Netflix handling the rights to Mank is already a terrible start to begin with (or any streaming service for that matter). A movie like Mank should be treated with respect, and should’ve been distributed by Warner Bros Pictures (since that is the company that owns the rights to Citizen Kane). This could’ve been another highlight of this year, but the way this film was worked on, Mank feels exactly like a forgettable, average TV movie.