Mank and Screenwriters

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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The Magnificent Ambersons

Director Orson Welles‘ 1942 movie The Magnificent Ambersons was taken away from him by RKO after it earned negative test scores, with the studio scrapping nearly an hour of his footage, reshooting additional scenes, and cooking up a completely different ending than Welles originally intended. The resulting Frankensteined version is still widely regarded as a great film (it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars), but for many film fans, Welles’ original work print – which was largely destroyed, but had one copy sent to the filmmaker in Brazil while he was working on another project – remains one of those all-time great Hollywood mysteries.

For the past 25 years, filmmaker Joshua Grossberg has documented his quest to find that missing workprint, and now Turner Classic Movies has agreed to sponsor Grossberg’s upcoming trip to South America to try one last attempt at locating this cinematic needle in a haystack. The resulting documentary, whether he finds Welles’ workprint or not, will air on TCM in 2022.  Read More »

david fincher on hollywood

I’m tipsy, and I’m thinking about Mank, both the movie and the man. I like to think he’d enjoy the thought of somebody drinking and writing about a portrayal of himself almost 70 years after his death. Maybe I’m wrong. What I do know is that Mank is a great movie.

Mank is also Fincher’s most revealing work to date. It is an epic drama that conveys what he has to say about films and the people behind them. Fincher isn’t exactly known for his warmth as a storyteller. The ending of The Game and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are the possible exceptions, but even those are about how death is coming for us all. Mank is a rare life-affirming experience from the filmmaker, about the importance of people, not films. 

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Hopper/Welles Clip

I’ll never get tired of watching cinematic legends talk about the craft of filmmaking. So you can understand my excitement for the new documentary feature Hopper/Welles, a film featuring never-before-seen footage from a 1970 meeting between rising star Dennis Hopper, hot off his breakthrough directorial debut with the New Hollywood counterculture film Easy Rider, and the legendary Orson Welles, director of classics such as Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil.

Dennis Hopper and Orson Welles came together when Hopper agreed to take a small cameo role in The Other Side of the Wind, the film Welles worked on for many years but never saw the light of day until a recent premiere at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, followed by a release on Netflix. So it’s only appropriate that Hopper/Welles is premiering in Venice this year, and we have the first clip from the movie below. Read More »

The 92nd Academy Awards are almost upon us, and if there’s one certainty going into Oscar night, it’s that some worthy talent in some category will be overlooked in favor of a lesser talent. No nominee or winner is undeserving of recognition, but snubs are also an essential part of Oscar history and directors are not immune to them. In fact, some of the greatest directors of all time have gone their whole career without receiving a proper Best Director Oscar.

Film is fundamentally a collaborative medium, and we’re only a little over a month removed from a decade where the movie industry shifted to a more producer-controlled landscape in which IP-friendly tentpoles seemed to occupy all the best real estate. Yet the best directors, the ones with the most singular voice or vision, do tend to bolster the case for auteur theory, whereby a director can be considered a film’s primary author. With that in mind, here’s a roughly chronological look at ten great film authors eluded by the golden statuette for Best Director. With each name on this list, we’ll be seeking to answer three questions: who did they lose to (if they were ever nominated), what film or films should they have won for, and why, oh, why didn’t they ever win?

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The Other Side of the Wind Review

The Other Side of the Wind is finally complete — or rather “complete.” Nominally. The final film by the great Orson Welles (assuming The Deep never sees the light of day) begins with a title card explaining that this version, restored by the folks at Netflix, exists as “an attempt to honor and complete” Welles’ original vision, the key word being “attempt.” With so much footage left un-shot and unedited during its original production, no version of the film today can feel truly whole. And yet, despite its haphazard meandering, The Other Side of the Wind, in the form it will now be known, is a fascinating meta-textual artifact on the very piecing together of art and intention. Read More »

the other side of the wind trailer

Orson Welles spent a large part of the 1970s trying to finish his film The Other Side of the Wind. Financial problems plagued the production, and while Welles claimed he managed to complete 96% of the film, he was never able to raise enough money to finish the job. Now, over 40 years later, The Other Side of the Wind has been completed, and it’s coming to Netflix. Watch the Other Side of the Wind trailer below.

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the other side of the wind theatrical release

Netflix may not be too keen on theatrical releases, but they’re willing to make an exception for Orson Welles. The streaming service is releasing a new cut of Welles’ unfinished final film The Other Side of the Wind, and they’ve decided to put the film in a few theaters as well.

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great newsroom movies

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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orson welles

Filmmaker Orson Welles has left behind two holy grails for film aficionados to chase. One is the footage cut from his original version of The Magnificent Ambersons, which as far as anyone can tell, doesn’t exist anymore. The other is The Other Side of the Wind, which is the long-uncompleted final film from Welles. Frank Marshall, who served as a Production Manager on the original production, has been trying to get this important film completed for over forty years, and now the Indiana Jones producer has finally found a partner to make this dream a reality.

Netflix has acquired global rights and will finance the completion and restoration of the legendary filmmaker Orson Welles’ last film, The Other Side of the Wind. Get the full details, after the jump.

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