Citizen Kane, perhaps best known as the movie that inspired Mank, is regarded by many as the best movie ever made, and for a while there, its Rotten Tomatoes score reflected that. The Orson Welles classic based loosely on the life of William Randolph Hearst was sitting at 100% on the review aggregation website, and it seemed like that would never change. But just recently, a negative review from critic Mae Tinee was uploaded, knocking the film down to 99%. And here’s the kicker: Tinee’s review was written 80 years ago. Oh, also: Tinee isn’t a real person, but a collective pseudonym once used for the Chicago Tribune.
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In Mank, there’s a scene where screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman, awakens disoriented in a California mansion. He soon wanders out back to a film set, where he encounters two studio bigwigs. One of them is Louis B. Mayer, the co-founder of MGM. The other is Irving G. Thalberg, a producer who has his own Academy Award named after him. Thalberg has to explain to Mayer who “Mank” is, even though he co-wrote one of their movies (just as he co-wrote, or depending on who you ask, wrote Citizen Kane, often considered the greatest movie ever made).
In snappy dialogue, a quick picture unfolds of Mank and his place in the Hollywood ecosystem. He’s a hired gun who’s used to receiving notes from execs in “the oversight tent.” This is a businessman’s backyard where “movies are a team sport” and where studios “use writers by the truckload,” sometimes all at once, sometimes in relays. The astute viewer knows what Mank knows: that it’s usually a sign of trouble when you see a movie with a revolving door of screenwriters.
At this year’s Oscars, due to air on Sunday, Mank leads the pack with 10 nominations. Citizen Kane had nine yet it only won Best Original Screenplay—an ironic footnote, given that the film helped set the prototype for the auteur, or director-as-author. Like so many other crew members who labor behind the scenes to bring film narratives to life, screenwriters may not inspire the same brand-name loyalty as directors. However, their scripts are where the storytelling begins; and as Mank shows, it’s a process where words matter as much as moving pictures.
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“It isn’t enough to tell us what a man did. You’ve got to tell us who he was.” – Citizen Kane
Herman J. Mankiewicz, genius Hollywood screenwriter, has been sent away to Arizona. Broken – his leg is in a thick cast following a car accident – and eager to get drunk at the drop of a hat, Mank – as everyone calls him – has been tasked with hammering out a screenplay for Hollywood’s new golden boy, Orson Welles. And Mank has a whopper of an idea: he’s going to write about newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, one of the most powerful men in the country. It’s a subject Mank is well-versed in, having spent countless nights drunkenly cavorting at Hearst’s castle-like estate San Simeon. Mank knows Hearst. Knows the people in Hearst’s inner-circle. And with his clacking typewriter, he’s going to destroy them all – and possibly himself, in the process.
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This year will go down as one of the weirdest and messiest in Hollywood’s history. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the release of some of the biggest movies of the year have been pushed back to late 2020 or even the summer of 2021, and it remains to be seen how The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will handle the annual Academy Awards. But even without any solid plans in place yet, Netflix is planning on giving a traditional awards season release to David Fincher‘s next film, Mank. Read More »
Most of the biggest streaming platforms are frequently — and rightly — criticized for rarely featuring films that were made before the 1980s. The race for new original content has drowned out the century of classic movies that have built up cinema to what it is today. But WarnerMedia’s forthcoming service HBO Max could, at least partially, remedy that with its curated collection of classic movies.
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In honor of Steven Spielberg‘s new newspaper drama The Post, we’ve combed through the archives, pounded the pavement, dusted off the typewriter and put together a list of some of the best newsroom movies fit to print. It’s a list comprised of both crusading, truth-seeking journalists and career opportunists willing to bend the truth as long as it makes for a great story. The connective tissue holding these films together is the ever-present newsroom, where typewriters sing and the truth lives or dies when a story goes to the presses.
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The Directors Guild of America is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year and it has decided to commemorate this event in a manner most befitting of the internet age: by making a list. More specifically, by polling DGA members and assembling a list of the 80 best-directed movies made since 1936, when the guild was founded. That’s one movie per year.
And like all internet lists, it’s bound to inspire conversation, eye-rolling, yelling, and maybe even a little cheer or two.
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While there are certain movie props such as a lightsaber, a time machine or a briefcase that have become iconic pieces of cinema, it’s easy to forget that movie props are everywhere when we’re looking at any single frame of a motion picture. Sometimes a movie prop is so important that it’s in the title of the film and the driving force of the entire story, as with The Maltese Falcon or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and other times they just add to the authenticity of any given scene.
A new video essay takes a look at the importance of movie props on film, whether they’re big or small, subtle or in your face and how they enhance the characters, story or setting of films across the board. Watch! Read More »
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Every artist has their own distinct style. Some styles are close to that of other artists and make them hard to distinguish. Others are so completely original, you know exactly who it is. Such is the case with 100% Soft, a Los Angeles based artist who makes work with tiny, simple, almost baby-like characters. It’s impossible to see a piece of art by 100% Soft and not know exactly who did it.
Which is ironic considering the topic of his latest exhibit. It’s called Lil Macguffins, which is the Alfred Hitchcock-coined term about an object in a movie that’s important to the story, but wholly undefined. Some famous examples are The Maltese Falcon in The Maltese Falcon, the briefcase in Pulp Fiction or the sled in Citizen Kane.
September 12, the exhibit will go on display at the Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn, New York as part of a three person exhibit with Glen Brogan and Russ Moore. Below, read more about the MacGuffins exhibit by 100% Soft and see a bunch of the art. Read More »
It hasn’t been the best week for Charles Foster Kane, as he lost the top spot on the Sight and Sound list of All-Time Best Films. But he’ll travel to San Francisco for screenings at the great Castro Theater. As a bonus, three artists have reinterpreted his film, the all-time great Citizen Kane, in poster form. It’s gonna be a great weekend at the movies.
Spoke Art is releasing Citizen Kane posters by Sam Smith, Chuck Sperry and Adam Juresko as well as The Big Sleep by Sperry and Gone with the Wind by Smith online today and at the theater this weekend. Check them all out after the jump. Read More »