Movie of the Year: 2020

Mank

The Taste Buds continue their prep for the 2020 season with Mank!

Oh Fincher, My Fincher. In this episode, we dive into the world of smartass screenwriter and coolest-drunk-at-the-party Herman J. Mankiewicz as he pens the script for what is arguably the best movie of all time, Citizen Kane. It should be noted that the aforementioned synopsis in no way reflects this movie’s plot. We barely even see Orson Welles (and the man was hard to miss! 6”2’ and simply built of beef). Fincher spends most of the time rummaging around Mank’s vodka-soaked memories of Old Hollywood, in all of its sleazy, glitzy glory. Icons of the studio era’s golden age parade across the beautifully stylized screen, from a weepy Louis B. Mayer to a conniving Irving Thalberg, offering the audience a chance to contemplate Fincher’s favorite subject – awful white guys and their eternal knack for wreaking havoc on those around them.

Presented in dreamy black-and-white and sprinkled with the occasional cigarette burn, Mank investigates the politics and corruption that inspired Citizen Kane’s script through the eyes of its deeply flawed protagonist. Gary Oldman convincingly portrays the paradoxical writer with an unmistakable lilt of self-disgust: a leftist wit among capitalist titans, an intellectual among hacks, a jester among kings… he hides his impotence behind boozy layers of aloof criticism. He treats his wife poorly and vomits at cool parties. He’s the worst gambler I’ve ever seen and is mean to Lilly Collins (has he not seen Emily in Paris?!). Fundamentally, Mank is an a-hole. But the kind of a-hole Fincher can’t help but love (I get it… who among us hasn’t fallen prey to a f@#kboi). The most appealing parts of him surface in his interactions with Marion Davies, played pitch-perfectly by the brilliant and ever-luminous Amanda Seyfried. Set in the shadow of the 1934 California gubernatorial election, Mank serves as a scathing piece of social commentary. Its targets are, sadly, evergreen: wealth disparity, fascism, and the upper-crust who laugh it all off because they can. While Mank in no way comes out of the events a hero, his role in the fallout reveals the conflicted and complex man operating beneath the performance.

I’m just gonna say it, this episode rules. Maybe one of the best episodes of any podcast ever, thanks in large part to the INCREDIBLE guest host Kate Dellis. She’s funny. She’s sharp. She’s coming for you, PopFilter. Sleep with one eye open.

Special thanks to Ryan and Mike for spending large quantities of time teaching a total n00b how to edit this freakin thing. Expect nipple tassels in the mail, as a token of my gratitude.

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