Will ‘Mank’ Be Netflix’s First Finest-Image Winner?

“Citizen Kane” has solid an unlimited cinematic shadow for practically eight a long time, sitting atop numerous lists of the best movies ever made.

And one way or the other, it solely gained a single Academy Award.

Although Orson Welles’s directorial debut got here up stunningly brief on the 1942 Oscar ceremony the place John Ford’s “How Inexperienced Was My Valley” took the trophies for finest image and finest director, the one factor “Citizen Kane” did get acknowledged for — its screenplay — is the topic of Netflix’s lavish new movie “Mank,” directed by David Fincher.

Will “Mank” handle what “Citizen Kane” couldn’t and nab these two prime Oscars? In a pandemic-pruned awards season, it has the look of a possible juggernaut.

Due Dec. four on Netflix after a restricted theatrical launch on Nov. 13, “Mank” tells the story of the Hollywood author Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), who’s been tasked by wunderkind Welles with crafting “Citizen Kane.” For Mankiewicz, taking this screenplay job will contain some burnt bridges, as “Kane” is a thinly veiled tackle the businessman William Randolph Hearst, whom Mankiewicz is aware of all too nicely.

Because the movie tells it, years earlier, Mankiewicz was a habitué of Hearst’s glittery events, the place the screenwriter brandished bon mots and solid a reference to Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), Hearst’s a lot youthful mistress. However ingesting and disillusionment precipitated Mankiewicz to fall out of Hearst’s favor — and Hollywood’s, too. Can he redeem himself by capitalizing on the provide from Welles and writing his biggest work?

Regardless of its single win, “Citizen Kane” nonetheless managed 9 Oscar nominations, and I’d count on no less than that many for “Mank.” In a 12 months bereft of main motion spectaculars and blockbuster theatrical releases, “Mank” has the chance to chop a large swath via the technical classes, notching nods for its high-end manufacturing design, enhancing and costumes.

After capturing episodes of Fincher’s Netflix present “Mindhunter,” the cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt might triumph in his very first Oscar race for luxurious black-and-white pictures meant to recall Hollywood’s golden age. (The final black-and-white movie to win within the class was one other Netflix contender, “Roma,” in 2019.) And the period-evocative monaural sound may catch Oscar’s ear, as might the swinging rating from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, though the duo will in all probability compete in opposition to their very own work in Pixar’s music-driven “Soul.”

Fincher’s father, Jack, wrote the screenplay for “Mank” however died in 2003, lengthy earlier than his son would lastly mount the movie. It is going to be the elder Fincher’s solely display credit score, and with its wall-to-wall witticisms, it’s a certain wager to safe him a posthumous Oscar nomination.

The very best-actor race is stuffed with main performances this 12 months, from Chadwick Boseman’s final role, in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” to Anthony Hopkins’s shattering work within the dementia drama “The Father.” Nonetheless, count on Oldman, who gained in 2018 for enjoying Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” to contend once more. I’m extra enthusiastic about first-time recognition within the supporting-actress class for Seyfried, who’s surprisingly canny as Davies.

With all that wind at its sails in different races, “Mank” is a lock to be nominated within the best-picture and best-director classes. Can it win both, and even each?

The director race appears to be like most favorable for Fincher, one among Hollywood’s finest regarded administrators who has been nominated twice earlier than — for “The Social Community” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” — however has by no means gained. A lavish film set in their very own yard would appear like simply the factor to make Oscar voters go that ultimate mile, although navel-gazing material is not a assure: Latest best-picture contenders about present enterprise, like Quentin Tarantino’s “As soon as Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born,” nonetheless have been handed over in Oscar’s ultimate minutes.

That stated, the director race usually tends to reward essentially the most technically achieved feat, and “Mank” is gleamingly costly auteur work from a famously exacting director. Except the academy favors one thing smaller this 12 months — say, Chloé Zhao’s extra intimate and freewheeling “Nomadland” — this appears like Fincher’s to lose.

Simply final 12 months, Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” gained the best-director race along with Oscars for cinematography and foreign-language movie, however nonetheless fell to “Inexperienced Guide” within the best-picture class. Many credited that win to an anti-streaming firewall throughout the academy, however have attitudes modified sufficient within the meantime to permit “Mank” win Netflix its first best-picture Oscar?

These holdouts could don’t have any different alternative. Although most studios are taking part in it protected this season with a sole contender pushed for consideration, Netflix is well-stocked with options this 12 months, together with Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” and George C. Wolfe’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Backside,” along with titles like Ron Howard’s “Hillbilly Elegy” and George Clooney’s “The Midnight Sky.”

It’s doable {that a} majority of nominees in all the six prime classes — the 4 appearing races, in addition to director and movie — might come from Netflix alone. In a season the place few academy members are more likely to set foot in a theater, it will make sense for a streaming service to lastly prevail.

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