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Ranking the 2021 Best Picture Nominees

Ranking 2021 nominees

This is the third year that I shall be ranking the Best Picture Nominees for the Academy Awards. This year I’m not quite as invested in the film awards given that it’s taken me this long to actually release it, but I thought that I might as well give my thoughts on the nominees.

Considering the past year’s weird year for movies with plenty of pushbacks of release dates, this year’s lineup of nominees was actually great. Not only did I like them all, almost all of them are great, there’s just one film that’s out of place here, but I even liked that movie. Out of the three years where I’ve ranked the Best Picture nominees, this has to be the strongest lineup yet.

The ranking of the nominees is all based off my personal preference and how much I liked them.

8. The Trial of the Chicago 7

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 was one of the frontrunners for Best Picture, but at this point it seems to have become firmly the least liked best picture nominee by many. I understand a lot of the criticisms, and even agree with a lot of them. Upon further thought, some of writer and director Aaron Sorkin’s “sorkinisms” can get a little annoying, specifically with how he decided to portray certain events and people from the real life story. It is certainly a movie that I like a lot less now compared to when I first saw it. Still, a year where The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the worst Best Picture nominee is a pretty good year for the Oscars. Ultimately, it’s the script and performances that still has me liking the movie a considerable amount, it’s a fairly engaging and energetic courtroom thriller. The script keeps you locked in from beginning to end with a fast pace, and it has some great dialogue. There’s also some solid acting from the massive cast here, with the highlights being Sacha Baron Cohen, Yayha Abdul-Mateen II and Mark Rylance. The Trial of the Chicago 7 is worth watching, but it still very much the weakest of the nominees.

My review of The Trial of the Chicago 7

7. Minari

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The much talked about Minari rightfully makes its presence known at the Oscars with a well deserved Best Picture nomination. It’s a real portrait of the immigrant experience of a Korean-American family in search of the American Dream, and as it’s based off director Lee Isaac Chung’s childhood, that makes it even more personal and special. It isn’t a plot driven movie, instead focusing on many moments, both little and notable, which only add to the naturalness of the story. These characters’ story is tender, heartfelt, emotional, funny and above all else, genuine and human. On top of the compelling story as well as the beautiful direction and look of the movie, the performances from everyone are natural and outstanding, with Steven Yeun, Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung being the standouts. Minari is a great and personal family drama, and it absolutely deserved its nominations at this year’s Oscars.

My review of Minari

6. Judas and the Black Messiah

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Despite being quite a late release in Oscar season, Judas and the Black Messiah was quite a standout movie among the nominees. It could’ve been a by the numbers biopic based on significant true events, however it is captivating from beginning to end, tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and intense atmosphere throughout. It also isn’t a typical biopic, it felt more like a historical drama thriller, and in some ways that actually helps the movie more. This movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society with the topics it covers, and it really lingers in the mind long after watching. The movie is definitely hard to watch at times, it’s a powerhouse tragedy of a drama that is more truthful and unapologetic than you would expect a big budget awards movie having. This riveting and greatly delivered story is paired with a great supporting cast including Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback and Ashton Sanders, as well as excellent lead performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stansfield (both of whom are very much deserving of their acting nominations). Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves its praise and accolades. It may be a late release, but definitely check it out when you get the chance to if you haven’t already.

My review of Judas and the Black Messiah

5. Nomadland

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Nomadland seems to be very much the frontrunner of the nominees, and it’s not difficult to see why. While it’s not at the top of my list, it very much deserves all the love and acclaim. Essentially, it is a poetic, quiet and contemplative character study, and an intimate look at loss and grief. The movie is fairly plotless and there isn’t much driving the story, but given the nature of the actual plot and characters, that is actually quite fitting. You get lost in the lead character’s journey as you are quite invested with what is happening with her story. The acting from everyone was great but it really is the story of Frances McDormand’s lead character. McDormand is subtle and understated yet incredibly powerful in this role, and she gives quite possibly her best performance yet. The standout aspect in this whole movie however is the work from director Chloe Zhao. Her direction is phenomenal on so many levels, perfect on a technical level for sure. It is clearly crafted with so much love and care, and she’s more than capable of telling a story with even just the movement of the camera alone. The cinematography is natural yet gorgeous, everything looks beautiful whether the focus of the shots are stunning landscapes, or relatively mundane places or objects. I perfectly understand if a lot of people don’t like this movie, it is quite slow, and you really have to get invested in the story and the lead character’s journey to really have it work for you. However, I still think it is one of the best films from the past year.

My review of Nomadland

4. Sound of Metal

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Sound of Metal was in some awards discussions, but I didn’t think that it would get much attention from the Oscars outside of a couple nominations. However, it got nominated a total of 6 times, including Best Picture, and I’m so happy that it got this attention. The story of a drummer who suddenly has to adjust to his new circumstances after he begins to lose his hearing may go on a narrative arc familiar to many other stories, but it has this genuine, thoughtful and rawness throughout that hooks you in emotionally. It refrains from large moments of drama and instead focuses on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments that have you constantly engaged. By the end of the movie, it is a truly heartbreaking yet uplifting story all at once. The acting is also phenomenal. Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci are strong and powerful supporting players, while Riz Ahmed gives some of the best acting work of the year in the lead role with a believable, naturalistic and truly human performance. Even the technical choices and directions were incredibly effective, especially with how it plays with sound and what we (or the lead character) hear or don’t hear. It doesn’t seem like Sound of Metal is one of the leading contenders for Best Picture but I’m just glad that it’s getting recognised at the very least.

My review of Sound of Metal

3. Promising Young Woman

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Promising Young Woman is one of the most controversial, polarising and much talked about movies from 2020, and everyone who saw it had a pretty strong opinion on it. There are some people who love it, and some people who hated it, and I’m thankfully in the former camp. Despite the initial look of the movie from the trailers and other marketing, it is more than I expected it to be. It is a revenge movie as advertised, but was also a character study, jumped between multiple tones seamlessly, and was a lot more nuanced than expected, while having a subversive, thrilling, and unpredictable plot. Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is confident, bold and impressive here, it is meritoriously crafted on all fronts, visually stunning and with a strong style. Then of course one of the key elements to this movie: Carey Mulligan, who gives an outstanding and complex performance, and one of the highlights from the past year. At the very least, this film is a great showcase for her excellent acting talents. Promising Young Woman was already one of the most standout films from 2020, but it is great to see it get recognised at the Oscars, regardless of whether it wins anything or not.

My review of Promising Young Woman

2. Mank

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Mank is probably one of the least popular of the nominees. Even if it doesn’t seem to be this year’s Best Picture ‘enemy’ (The Trial of the Chicago 7), it really has a very niche audience. It’s a movie about the writing of Citizen Kane, set in the 30s and 40s, and made to look like it was made from that era. While I wouldn’t try to claim that it’s one of director David Fincher’s most accessible work, I am one of the few people who actually do love this film and think it’s great. The story of Mank may essentially be about the writing of one of the greatest movies of all time (as proclaimed by certain people at least), but it is mainly about the screenwriter himself, and what inspired him to do this. It’s also about Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, the politics at the time, and the Hollywood system and its many flaws. I found that quite interesting to watch, even if not everyone did. The whole cast were great, with the likes of Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lilly Collins, Charles Dance and more delivering some great work, with Oldman particularly giving the best performance I’ve seen from him. On a technical level it is perfect, Fincher has directed this movie excellently. It does well at recreating the looks of film from the 40s with black and white, film grain and the sound mixing, it is a stunning movie, and it really immerses you in that era. While many could understandably write it off as just another movie about Hollywood, it still actually feels like there was passion behind it. Mank is not going to win the Best Picture award but if it did somehow did, I think it would deserve it.

My review of Mank

1. The Father

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Probably an unexpected pick for the favourite nominee out of the 8. The Father looked like textbook Oscar bait, excellent award winning actors starring in a movie based off a play about someone who is getting old, and the marketing didn’t do much to help change that perception. I went into it expecting something good, however it was truly phenomenal on so many levels. There have been plenty of movies focusing on people on dementia but its never been portrayed like this. The Father plays more like a slow moving nightmare or horror movie despite being a drama essentially. The unreliable perspective is used incredibly well as we are in the lead character’s confused point of view, conveyed excellently through the writing and plotting, as well as writer and director Florian Zeller’s outstanding technical work. And I can’t talk about this movie before touching upon the performances, mainly the two nominated with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman. Colman is incredibly believable as someone who is grappling with watching her father slowly declining, one of her best acting work. But it is Hopkins’s movie, and this is truly his all time best performance in his long and fantastic acting career. He is absolutely phenomenal, breath-taking and heartwrenching in the lead role. He’s pitch perfect from beginning to end, and it is quite possibly one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. It’s not a movie that I want to watch again, not just because of the subject matter, but also because it’s such an emotional and rough experience of a movie. However out of all these 8 movies, it had the longest lasting impact on me. A truly outstanding film that unfortunately doesn’t have a strong chance at winning, but is at the very least recognised by being one of the nominees.

My review of The Father

What are your ranking of this year’s Best Picture Nominees, and what do you think of the nominees?

Top 20 Best Films of 2020

Best of 2020

2020 was a very weird year for film. There was a pushback of plenty of movies, so a lot of the movies I was looking forward to that year was pushed back a year or even more. I also watched a lot less movies from 2020 year compared to past years, having only seen 55 movies from this year. Still, there were good films that came out in 2020 that are worth praising.

I should mention that films like The Father and Judas and the Black Messiah, which would otherwise be higher up on this list, are 2021 movies and so won’t be on this list.

Honourable Mentions:

The Nest

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The Nest was a smaller movie that didn’t seem to get a lot of attention from many people, but those who had seen it had very positive things to say about it. I’m glad I checked it out, it’s definitely worth seeing.

It’s a slow moving drama and it does take a while to figure out what it is about. However at its core, The Nest is a family drama portraying a slow but catastrophic disintegration of a marriage, and a deconstruction of the nuclear family, with themes about family, wealth, and what it means to be successful. It made for a slow descent into chaos that really creeps up on you. It was uneasy, uncomfortable and stressful to watch, with a sinister and moody atmosphere throughout, akin to a horror movie. The acting is also strong, with Jude Law being really good in his part and Carrie Coon being the outstanding stand out among the cast. It’s not for everyone and will be too slow for some, but I do think that it is worth checking out.

My review of The Nest

Weathering with You

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I had a feeling that I would really like Weathering with You from the moment I heard that it was from the filmmaker of Your Name, which is one of my favourite anime films of all time. While his latest movie doesn’t quite top his previous movie, I still think that it’s great.

Many of the great elements from Your Name are here. It blends multiple elements and genres including romance, drama, fantasy and coming of age together for its personal and smaller scaled story. The characters are well established and likable, and I liked following them. The direction from Makoto Shinkai as usual is outstanding, with his distinct and hyper-realistic animation style. The visuals are amazing, from the character movements, to the locations and settings. Empathetic and emotional, and under a beautiful direction throughout, I found Weathering with You to be enthralling.

My review of Weathering with You

20. One Night in Miami

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One Night in Miami was up there in the movie awards conversation, and for very good reason. It’s very strong on all fronts, acting, directing and writing, it’s a very powerful movie, and it’s a great film overall.

One Night in Miami does take a while to get going, but by the time the four main characters meet up, you’re invested in the characters and the plot. It’s a relatively simple movie, mostly taking place in one location. However it dives into many thought provoking and relevant conversations and keeps your attention all the way through. It is very well written, with some brilliant dialogue that’s incredibly well written and compelling (which it would need to be given that it’s dialogue focused and based off a play). The performances from the main four leads in Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr are excellent in their parts, and they play off each other very well. Regina King’s debut here as a filmmaker is fantastic, making the movie feel very cinematic despite it being based off a play. One Night in Miami is a very impressive movie that I was invested in from beginning to end.

My review of One Night in Miami

19. The Gentlemen

This was actually the first 2020 movie that I watched. Initially I liked it quite a lot, it was very entertaining and was for sure one of Guy Ritchie’s best movies. However, upon a rewatch it held up for me, and I liked it even more. I really wasn’t expecting it to still be in my top 20 of 2020 over a year later.

The Gentlemen is very entertaining, with some strong writing throughout. It’s sharp, memorable, and really funny. Like with Snatch, there are multiple characters and storylines crossing over and intertwining. It may be known as an action comedy, but really the great dialogue is the action of The Gentlemen. The cast are all fantastic on their parts, with Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, and Colin Farrell being my favourites of the performances. Guy Ritchie is at home directing in this genre. His style in this movie is his substance, it’s polished to perfection and it works to great effect. The Gentlemen is a return to form for Guy Ritchie, more so than RockNRolla, which was released over 10 years earlier. It’s darkly hilarious, constantly entertaining, and I really enjoyed watching it.

My review of The Gentlemen

18. Emma

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This is another movie that I wasn’t expecting to be in my top 20 by the end of the year. Until Emma, I hadn’t watched a single Jane Austen adaptation, but Emma proved to be a delightful experience of a movie that had me entertained from beginning to end.

Emma is great, hilarious, very witty, and snappy, with some rich characters and some great dialogue. Anya Taylor-Joy is pitch perfect in the title role, while the large supporting cast that consists of Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner and performed well on their parts. AAdditionally, Autumn de Wilde’s work as director is incredible. It is visually stunning and gorgeous, and all edited together incredibly well, along with having great production values. Much of the movie is very stylish, but it is done in a way that suits the material. I’ll admit that ultimately it took me a second viewing to understand and really ‘get’ this movie, but from that point, I found Emma to be such a fun and well made movie, and one of the movie highlights from 2020.

My review of Emma.

17. Black Bear

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Black Bear was quite an unexpected movie, one that definitely benefits from not knowing too much going into it. While it does make it a hard movie to describe or sell to people, I can assure you that it is well worth the watch.

I must emphasise that it’s a movie worth going into blind, especially with its significant turn some way into the movie. While it’s not perfect and does detach you from the narrative a bit, it does add something interesting to the film. What I can say is that it leaves a lot of room for interpretation and analysis. The writing itself is great, the dialogue is chaotic, sharp and very memorable. The acting work from everyone is great, with Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon being solid in major supporting roles. However it’s Aubrey Plaza who gets the most recognition from this movie and for very good reason, she’s fantastic here. Plaza is captivating and intense, some of the best acting work I’ve seen from her, and truly one of the highlight performances from the past year. It’s directed well too, beautiful to look at, and its intense camerawork gives the film a dynamic and real feeling. Sound design is great and sharp, and that paired with the bleakness of the cinematography and its haunting score helps creating a foreboding sense of dread. Black Bear is a mindbending, unexpected and well directed dramatic thriller, with effective tension throughout. To a degree it’s not for everyone, but I do think that it’s worth a watch.

My review of Black Bear

16. The Trial of the Chicago 7

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As a major awards season contender, The Trial of the Chicago 7 seems to have become firmly the least liked best picture nominee (which usually ends up happening to at least one nominee every year). I really do understand a lot of the criticisms, in fact some of my praise on this movie has decreased a little bit upon further thought even though I really liked it when I first saw it. But looking back on it, I still like it quite a lot.

The script was all the things you’d expect from Aaron Sorkin, with snappy and captivating dialogue, a fast pace, and some memorable moments. It locks you in with what’s happening from beginning to end. There’s also a massive ensemble cast for this movie, everyone is great including Sacha Baron Cohen, Yahya Abduel-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, John Caroll Lynch, Jeremy Strong, and Frank Langella. Unfortunately, it does have some notable aspects which do take away from the movie, even in retrospect. It definitely has some Sorkinisms with some of the dialogue choices, how he chose to represent certain events and people on screen, and especially the ending. I would’ve liked to have seen a darker and more accurate representation of the real life events for sure. With all that said, I still think it was a good movie and I do think that it’s worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.

My review of The Trial of the Chicago 7

15. Mangrove

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Mangrove is the first entry in the Small Axe anthology, all of which are directed by Steve McQueen. I haven’t seen all 5 movies yet, but at the moment in time, I don’t see the rest of them topping this one. It’s solid in every aspect, and I was engaged from beginning to end.

Steve McQueen gives a great examination of the themes and subject matters in the forefront as he sheds light on an incredible true story. It’s smaller scale, yet very compelling story of a community together, fighting for their human rights. It’s quite a powerful movie, and I was invested throughout. It takes a while to get to the trial, but the first half of the movie is necessary as we are introduced to the people and the Mangrove itself. Then when it gets to the courtroom drama, it is riveting and well written. The cast are all great, with the highlights being Shaun Parkes, Letitia Wright and Darcus Howe. McQueen’s direction here is strong, his work here is more subdued and restrained compared to his other work but it’s very effective here. All in all, it’s a well crafted and passionate historical drama. While I can’t speak for the quality of the entirety of Small Axe, I do think Mangrove is worth checking out at the very least.

My review of Small Axe: Mangrove

14. Never Rarely Sometimes Always

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Never Rarely Sometimes Always was one of the most surprising movies from 2020. It’s a very small indie movie that got a lot of traction, and then acclaim, and it definitely deserved all the attention it has been receiving.

What was immediately noticeable about Never Rarely Sometimes Always was its approach to storytelling. It’s not so focused on dialogue and it makes a lot of use out of silence, speaking volumes by saying a little. It tells a story through subtext and silence, from the character’s actions, the performances and the direction, making the movie feel all the more real. It resists going all in on unwelcome melodrama or larger ‘dramatic’ and overtly emotional moments, instead focusing the attention on being more natural. It’s empathetic and honest too, and by the end is very powerful. The acting is impressive from Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in the lead roles, both performances are subtle, genuine and powerful and share great chemistry together. The whole movie feels authentic from the sets, to the sound, and to the cinematography and camerawork, especially with what they focus and linger on. I did want more character development, but it is the sort of movie where you aren’t given the full context of everything, or know why certain people do what they do, and I think that really works for the film. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a raw, nuanced and powerful movie, and one that you should definitely check out if you haven’t already.

My review of Never Rarely Sometimes Always

13. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

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Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things was definitely one of the most polarising movies of 2020. It’s really not for everyone, however I’m glad that I’m one of the people who liked this movie quite a lot.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things isn’t a horror movie in the conventional sense, but it is quite bleak, melancholic and depressing, yet very well written from Kaufman, with many layers and much to talk about. I was invested, even if much of the movie consisted of long conversations, I was fascinated with what was happening. The acting from everyone is great, with Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis all performing greatly. However, it’s Jessie Buckley who’s the standout here, delivering one of the best performances from 2020. Kaufman’s direction shines a lot here too, from its stunning (and 4:3 ratio) cinematography, to the great and off kilter editing that indicates that something is really off throughout. There’s not much clear cut explanations about much of what the film is trying to say, and I admit that I don’t exactly understand everything. For me it’s quite possible that a rewatch could improve or break the movie for me. For now, I’ll just say that I had a really good experience watching it. It’s a strange and confusing film that will frustrate many, but I thought it was great.

My review of I’m Thinking of Ending Things

12. Saint Maud

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Saint Maud had been one of the most anticipated horror movies from 2020, and while some people were disappointed with the film after all the hype, I thought it was great. It’s a short and simple, yet effective and intimate psychological horror film.

Saint Maud is less intense horror and scares than creepy, disturbing and unsettling, with a creeping sense of dread throughout. It was a slow burn of a character study, that I was invested in throughout. This movie is a look at religious fanaticism, mental illness, loneliness and isolation. Morfydd Clark is amazing, mesmerising, and captivating in the lead role, one of the highlights of the film for sure. Rose Glass directs this movie incredibly well, I really want to see what she makes next. The movie is visually stunning with gloomy cinematography and memorable imagery, and features some great sound mixing and music, all of which combine together to build suspense and tension as well as a chilling atmosphere. It could’ve benefited by being a bit longer to flesh out its ideas and themes, but all in all, Saint Maud was a great horror film.

My review of Saint Maud

11. The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man was one of the earlier movies from 2020 that still managed to get released before cinemas closed and movies started to be delayed. It still remained a very memorable movie even amongst all the other newer releases, and one that I’m still incredibly impressed by.

This is a modern adaptation of the original story, and that certainly seemed difficult to make, definitely hard to make an invisible man actually scary. However, director/writer Leigh Whannell and co. pulled it off, and the tweaks to modernise the story worked to great effect. The story is essentially about domestic abuse and gaslighting, and explores the traumas in an abusive relationship. That was more unsettling than the actual idea of a man being invisible. The movie is unnerving, and you feel as paranoid as the protagonist. While some of the concepts and ideas on paper might sound silly, it actually works here. As great as the rest of the movie around her is, Elisabeth Moss was key to making it succeed as well as it did, she gave an incredible performance on her part. Whannell directed this movie so well, this and Upgrade shows him as a great horror filmmaker and I’m looking forward to seeing what he makes next. The use of lingering camera shots and movements are so effective, making you unnerved at what you’re seeing, or not fully seeing. Combining that with the great visual effects and the powerful sound design and score, and it really escalates the already tense atmosphere. If you’re a fan of horror, I highly recommend checking out The Invisible Man.

My review of The Invisible Man

10. Possessor

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There have been some great horror movies from 2020, but Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor is my favourite of them all. A disturbing, unsettling and incredibly well-made psychological horror film, it made for a very memorable experience.

Possessor is a very creative, ambitious and unapologetic movie, packed with so many ideas. It doesn’t hold your hand, requiring you to put the pieces together of what’s happening in the story. It’s deliberately paced yet I was very intrigued throughout. The futuristic setting is bleak, and much of the movie is unsettling even before it gets to the brutality and shocking images. The cast are all great, especially Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott as the leads. Brandon Cronenberg directs this film incredibly well. It’s a visually and aesthetically stunning movie with a great colour pallet, and some outstanding hypnotic, surreal and nightmarish sequences. It’s an assault on the sense from the very first scene all the way to the end. Possessor is very much not for everyone, the gore at the very least will turn people off, and some might not be as into the story. But it was one of the most riveting and intense experiences I’ve had watching a horror movie recently.

My review of Possessor (2020)

9. Soul

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I went into Soul not being quite sure of what to expect. I just saw one of the trailers and knew that it was a Pixar movie from the people who made Inside Out. I didn’t expect it to be as great as it turned out to be.

If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend going into Soul without not knowing much about it. It was a lot deeper than expected, with it being a journey that really makes you think about life. It’s a beautifully told and very human story that’s full of sincerity, honesty and heart about what it means to be alive, as well as the purpose of life. It’s Pixar’s most mature movie by far, in fact I see older audiences getting much more out of the movie. At the same time, it is entertaining and there’s some good humour here too. The characters are great, even the brief characters who only have a few minutes of screentime are memorable, and they are voiced by a great cast including Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton and Rachel House. The movie is also directed well by Pete Doctor, beautifully and stylishly animated with its stylised photorealism approach to the locations and characters (at least when the movie takes place in the real world). It’s only enhanced further by the outstanding score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Soul is one of Pixar’s most clever, poignant and honest films, and one of their best.

My review of Soul

8. Minari

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There had been a lot of hype and anticipation for Minari based off the early reactions, and they were absolutely justified. It’s fantastically made on every level, and was all around an incredible experience.

Minari is a heartfelt and empathetic portrait of the immigrant experience from the perspective of a Korean-American family in the search of the American Dream, showing the hardships they go through. Their story is tender, genuine, funny and heartwarming. Director Lee Isaac Chung translates his own personal childhood story to the big screen in such a beautiful way. The cast all deliver truly great performances, especially Steven Yeun, Alan Kim and Youn Yuh-jung. Minari is a great and truly personal family drama. Watch this as soon as you can.

My review of Minari

7. Nomadland

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Nomadland is one of the most acclaimed movies from 2020 and it’s for very good reason. It’s a poetic, quiet and contemplative character study, and an intimate look at grief and loss. It’s great on pretty much every front.

Nomadland is plotless yet character driven as we follow the main character become a nomad over the course of the movie. It really is a story about real people and real stories, full of many memorable and heartfelt side characters who leave their mark on the film in an effective way. Despite it not really having a driving force throughout, we get lost and invested we follow the main character on her spiritual journey. The acting from everyone is great. Along with the performances from the real life nomads in the supporting cast, Frances McDormand here gives quite possible her best performance yet. Chloe Zhao’s direction is nothing short of extraordinary, and on a technical level the movie is pretty much perfect. The cinematography is natural, personal and gorgeous. Whether its be capturing beautiful landscapes or mundane areas, Zhao makes everything look beautiful. I do understand if people don’t like the movie, but I do think that it’s worth a watch at the very least.

My review of Nomadland

6. Another Round

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Released later in the year, Another Round quickly became one of my favourite movies of 2020. A dark comedy about drinking, life and more, it is energetic, hilarious yet heartbreaking and compelling.

The plot is about drinking but instead of just focusing on the negative effects, the film shows both the positives and negatives, while looking at serious subject matters including alcoholism, discontent lives, midlife crises, and marriage. It’s honest in a way that’s not sappy, it feels genuine. There’s a lighthearted tone throughout, so it’s easy to watch and is entertaining, but it also has emotional moments and darker aspects that stick with you. The cast are great especially the main 4 actors in Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe and Magnus Millang, with Mikkelsen giving one of his all-time best performances. Another Round is a humane, warm and cathartic dramedy that shows the benefits and drawbacks of alcohol, and is a very reflective and entertaining movie about life, friendship and day drinking. Check it out if you haven’t already.

My review of Another Round

5. Sound of Metal

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Sound of Metal really crept up on me, an impactful and genuine drama that’s incredibly thoughtful, powerful and well made. I’m so glad that it’s receiving all the acclaim and awards recognition, because it absolutely deserves them.

While Sound of Metal might be structured in a predictable way in that it’s about someone who has something happen to them that changes their life, and then they have to grow to accept their new circumstances, it doesn’t play out how you’d expect. It feels real and you are invested with what happens. It’s thoughtful, sensitive, and impactful, never once getting to the point where it feels heavy handed. It’s an insightful look into the experiences of people that we can only imagine ourselves. It focuses on quiet and powerful character interactions and moments over larger dramatic moments. This is only also helped further by the impressive direction from Darius Marder, especially with the incredible use of sound mixing. Then there’s the outstanding acting, Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci giving memorable supporting performances, and Riz Ahmed’s powerfully affecting performance is his career best. Definitely worth checking out as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

My review of Sound of Metal

4. Promising Young Woman

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Promising Young Woman was one of the most talked about movies from 2020, leaving quite an impact on critics and audiences. Stylish, provocative and excellently made, it was one of the past year’s most memorable movies.

The writing is strong, subversive and unpredictable. It is tonally all over the place, jumping between dark drama and thriller to comedy, it’s a movie that’s rather hard to categorise. It is a little more than what I expected it to be, while it is sort of a revenge movie as advertised, it’s also a character study, and the film was surprisingly nuanced. The performances from everyone are all great, but it’s the career best performance from Carey Mulligan that stands out most of all. At the very least, this movie is an excellent showcase for her excellent acting talents. Emerald Fennell’s directorial feature film debut is great, sporting an intoxicating visual style with the cinematography, costumes and production design. Unpredictable, well crafted, shocking and timely, Promising Young Woman is a movie where everyone is going to have a strong opinion on it. If you haven’t already, watch it for yourself.

My review of Promising Young Woman

3. Da 5 Bloods

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Da 5 Bloods showcases all of Spike Lee’s greatest talents and is amongst his best movies. Ambitious, urgent and impactful, it’s very well crafted and all around incredible.

Da 5 Bloods really is an epic war movie from Spike Lee. It’s very well written with a balanced tone, featuring dark comedy as well as emotional and character driven moments, with multi-dimensional and complex characters. It’s a truly emotional journey that works on so many levels, with so much depth here. There’s some hard-hitting commentary about race in America, PTSD, the ramifications of war and more, and it’s done in an intelligent and relevant way. It’s deeply empathetic, and through and through feels like a passion project. The acting is fantastic from everyone including Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, the late Chadwick Boseman, and especially Delroy Lindo. On a technical level it’s great, from the stunning cinematography to the well-tuned editing and more. Da 5 Bloods is one of the best films about the Vietnam War, and one of the most powerful war films I’ve seen. I feel like it’s been forgotten as more movies came out in 2020 but I really do think it’s one of that year’s best.

My review of Da 5 Bloods

2. Mank

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One of the more divisive awards movies, Mank definitely didn’t work for everyone really, it’s a rather niche movie. It’s not one of David Fincher’s more rewatchable movies by any means. However, I’m one of the few people who loved this film, and I do think it’s great for what it is.

While as it was pitched and seemingly marketed as a movie about the writing of the classic film Citizen Kane, it’s more about the main character of Mank, and the events and people which inspire him to write the movie. It’s a film about Hollywood during the 30s and 40s, the politics at that time and the flaws of the Hollywood system. While it took me a while to figure out what the movie is about, I thought it succeeded in just about every single way imaginable. The whole cast is great, with the likes of Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Lilly Collins delivering some great works, with Oldman particularly giving the best performance I’ve seen from him. It’s also perfect on a technical level, David Fincher directs this excellently. There’s a lot of attention to detail to recreate the look of film in the 40s with the black and white, film grain, and sound mixing, and there’s tributes to Citizen Kane as to be expected. While it could easily be seen as just another typical Hollywood biopic, Mank really does feel like there’s passion behind it. As I said earlier, it is one of the more divisive movies from 2020 and very much isn’t for everyone. But I do think that it is worth a watch.

My review of Mank

1. Tenet

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Tenet was one of my all time most anticipated movies of 2020, Christopher Nolan’s name already sold me on it and the film itself looked spectacular from the trailers. I managed to watch Tenet in cinemas twice, and I loved it. While I expected another 2020 movie to come along and take the top spot on this list, nothing really had come close to topping Tenet as my favourite movie of the past year.

Tenet is at its core is a large-scale espionage and spy movie, which just happens to have a sci-fi time aspect to it. There are plenty of twists and turns, and the story itself could be complex and challenging. While it’s confusing on a first viewing, on repeat viewings it makes so much more sense, and you can see how well put together it is. Even if you can find issues in the movie like how some of the characterisations aren’t as strong as they could be, it’s nonetheless one rollercoaster of a ride. It’s ambitious, thrilling and such a fantastic experience from beginning to end. The cast including John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenenth Branagh all perform their parts greatly. However of course much of the film’s success comes down to the direction from Christopher Nolan, on a technical level it is pretty much perfect. It’s very well shot and has some incredible action sequences, in fact I’d say that this movie has some of the best action that Nolan has done. From the opening opera house sequence to the climactic action scene, it’s exhilarating and overwhelming. The practical effects and sound design are outstanding too, and that’s even before you get to Ludwig Goransson’s excellent score, which fits the rest of the movie perfectly. It’s one of my favourite Christopher Nolan movies, it’s among my very long list of favourite movies, and it’s my favourite film of 2020.

My review of Tenet

What are you favourite movies from 2020?

David Fincher Films Ranked

David Fincher Ranked

With Mank out now, I decided to have a look back at director David Fincher’s past movies and rank them.

David Fincher is one of my favourite directors of all time. Fincher is known as being a perfectionist, with his meticulous attention to detail when it comes to the visual style and performances on displays. He has established himself as one of the most distinct, known and revered filmmakers of modern film. Most of his films explore the dark impulses of humanity; things such as jealousy, perversion, and compulsion. They aren’t particularly upbeat by any means, but I love watching them.

I’d consider all of his movies to be really good at worst, and excellent at best. Even the movies lower on this list have a lot of great stuff in it.

11. Panic Room

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Most people would have another Fincher film in the last place, but for this I’ll have Panic Room. A home invasion thriller, while it’s a fairly standard entry in the genre, it is made distinct and unique by how incredibly directed it is.

It’s a pretty familiar and conventional home invasion movie, but the script despite some faults is reasonably strong, and the movie is quite entertaining and tense throughout. The cast are all good in their parts from Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart through to Forrest Whitaker and Jared Leto. However it’s Fincher’s direction which makes it stand out so much. Stylish, dark, claustrophobic and tense, it really locks you into this one house that the movie largely takes place in from beginning to end. There’s not much about the movie that is bad, or anything concrete that firmly places it in the last place in his filmography, it’s just not quite at the level of his other movies.

My review of Panic Room

10. Alien 3: Assembly Cut

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Alien 3 is widely known as David Fincher’s worst movie by most, and even he disowned the movie, mainly because it is known as one of the most infamous cases of studio interference in a movie. However, I do like Alien 3 a lot more than most, specifically the Assembly Cut, which has been gaining something of a cult following. It’s definitely flawed but it has some great aspects to it too that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Instead of taking the easy path and following in line with the previous movie in the franchise with Aliens, Alien 3 not only moves closer in line to the original Alien, but it establishes itself as its own movie with its own unique style, and is considerably bleaker and more nihilistic. That naturally alienated some fans but I was on board with the new direction. One of Alien 3’s greatest strengths is that it is directed incredibly well by David Fincher. The creative filming, the stunning cinematography and the horror scenes, his work here was great. Along with some good supporting performances in the cast in Charles Dance and Charles S. Dutton, Sigourney Weaver gives her best performance as Ellen Ripley here. That’s not to say that there aren’t some issues with the movie. The CGI moments of the xenomorph have not aged well, and you can still tell that the movie has been greatly interfered with. Overall though, I thought it was a fitting conclusion to the Ellen Ripley Alien trilogy. If you haven’t already seen Alien 3, watch the Assembly Cut, it’s well worth your time.

My review of Alien 3: Assembly Cut

9. The Game

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The Game isn’t one of Fincher’s stronger movies but I’d say that it is one of his more underrated work. Suspenseful, unique and weird, it’s a pretty good thriller overall, even if you have to suspend your disbelief quite a lot.

David Fincher spins an incredibly entertaining and unpredictable thriller, which escalates as the story continues and becomes crazier and crazier. There are twists and turns and keeps you interested right to the very end. Fincher’s direction is great, slick and stylised, with an intoxicating atmosphere through great cinematography and camerawork. While his character wasn’t that interesting of a protagonist, Michael Douglas’s performance made him really work, and he conveyed all the emotion that was required. The third act and the reveal in that final act is for sure far fetched, and it raises a ton of unanswered questions which really hurts the movie. It’s understandable that it’s the biggest criticism for most people, however I went along with it alright. The Game was worth going into not knowing much, it was a nice surprise when I first saw it and I even enjoyed it more on a second viewing.

My review of The Game

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of Fincher’s lesser liked movies. It’s one of his most ‘award’s baity’ movies and it doesn’t even seem like one of his movies. It was the last movie I had yet to watch from him and it turned out to be quite great, even if it’s the film in his filmography I’m least likely to revisit.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is David Fincher’s Forrest Gump, a period piece movie following an individual over the course of their unusual and extraordinary life. It just so happens that the individual is an old Brad Pitt aging backwards. I won’t deny that it is a pretty odd movie for Fincher to take on, but I think there’s a lot of merit to it. It’s by far Fincher’s most emotional movie, as it examines life from an unconventional angle. The cast are great with Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and others giving really solid performances, even if they aren’t the highlight of the movie. It doesn’t look like a Fincher movie, but he nonetheless directs it incredibly well. Beautifully shot and with incredible special effects (particularly to make Brad Pitt able to portray Benjamin Button at different stages of his life), it holds up fairly well today. If you haven’t seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button already, I do highly recommend watching it and seeing it for yourself. It is emotional yet somewhat uplifting, and well worth your time.

My review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

7. Mank

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Mank is the latest film from David Fincher, and it just so happens to be his most different and his least accessible movie for audiences, requiring a knowledge or interest in old Hollywood and/or Citizen Kane. It wasn’t quite what I expected really and so far the response from most people has been a bit polarised, but I thought that it turned out to be quite great.

Mank is once again another very well made movie from David Fincher, and while I really wasn’t expecting much from it considering it’s about the writing of Citizen Kane, it surprised me. The movie wasn’t just about Citizen Kane, it was about the life of protagonist Herman J. Mankiewicz and Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, as well as politics at that time, which helped influence some of the elements in Mank’s screenplay for Citizen Kane. It is also one of the most scathing critiques of Hollywood I’ve seen. The script from Fincher’s late father Jack is great, and I was quite intrigued during the movie, at least once I figured out what it was really about. The performances all across the board were fantastic; Gary Oldman gives a career best performance as Mank, Amanda Seyfried is fantastic, Lily Collins is really good, and Charles Dance also really stands out in his limited screentime. The direction from Fincher is also a shining point, much like with Benjamin Button, you wouldn’t recognise that he directed it if you didn’t know that going in. Such great measures are taken to set it and make it look like it is on film, impressive considering that it was filmed on digital. Everything from the black and white cinematography, lighting, editing and the score comes together to form a film that’s just about technically perfect. Even though this is likely one of Fincher’s least rewatchable movies, I still consider it to be quite great, and one of the best films of 2020.

My review of Mank

6. Gone Girl

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On paper, Gone Girl seems very much in Fincher’s wheelhouse and looks like something he could make in his sleep, but what starts out as a pulpy possible murder mystery turns out to be a lot more than just that. Gone Girl is great, and on repeat viewings it’s even better, as you see how incredibly well crafted it is. Among his greatest films

I won’t get too into why this movie is so good because that would involve touching upon some significant spoilers. However I will say that all around this movie is very well made and put together. The script from Gillian Flynn, who adapted her own novel of the same name exceptionally, is fantastic. It subverts the usually straight faced murder mystery and is an effective satire and commentary about marriage and media politics. On first time viewings, it keeps the audience guessing and guessing how it would all end, with plenty of twists, turns and reveals. The performances are all great. Ben Affleck gives a believable and effective performance on his part, and Carrie Coon, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry and more all do great work in the supporting cast. However, it’s Rosamund Pike. who gives a pitch perfect performance as the complex character of Amy Dunne, who stands out among them all, taking this movie to a whole other level. David Fincher’s work as a director is once again amazing. Gone Girl is incredibly well crafted, stunningly shot, and does very well at making you feel uneasy and unsettled, from the editing to the score. One of the more disturbing films in Fincher’s filmography (mostly on a psychological level), Gone Girl is truly great. If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend going into it knowing next to nothing, it’s quite an experience.

My review of Gone Girl

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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As we all know, David Fincher directs thrillers very well, and so he was the perfect person to direct the American adaptation of hit Swedish book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve not seen the Swedish movies so I can’t say for certain which I consider better, but I consider the 2011 movie on its own to be fantastic. While it’s generally well received, I actually do love this movie more than most people.

Despite it being an American and Hollywood production, when you imagine an American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, what would initially come to mind certainly isn’t this. It’s committed to being quite bleak and dark mystery thriller, with a long runtime and a complex and incredibly engaging story. The cast all give tremendous performances, Daniel Craig gives an understated and truly effective performance but it’s of course Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander who shines the most, with such a phenomenal presence and being both imposing and empathetic when on screen. Fincher’s direction might actually be the star of the whole film, it’s so well put together, and has this bleak feeling that really works in the film’s favour. It’s edited to perfection, keeping you constantly locked in and goes quite a long way to keep you constantly invested and on board with everything that happens. It’s also a stunning looking movie, it is so atmospheric and understated that the visuals draws you into this world and setting immediately, and the chilling score elevates the tension and fear. It’s a shame that Fincher and co. weren’t able to complete the rest of the trilogy. Some people may consider it one of Fincher’s weaker work, but I consider it to be one of his best.

My review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

These next 4 movies are very close, and I’d say that they are interchangeable.

4. Fight Club

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Fight Club was very controversial and divisive upon its release. However from the point it released on home media, it grew a cult following and now it is widely regarded as an all time classic. Angry, stylised, satirical and entertaining from beginning to end, it’s well deserving of all its acclaim. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should watch it as soon as you can knowing as little as possible.

Despite all the misinterpretations and some of its bad reputation, Fight Club is unironically an intelligent and well-made movie, it really was ahead of its time, with its commentary about capitalism, mental health and masculinity. It’s highly influential and had a massive impact (for better and ford worse). Also rewatching it recently it was much funnier than I remembered, with pitch black humour injected into the movie throughout. The story and characters are incredibly twisted but had me on board and entertained from beginning to end. Fincher’s direction was great, very stylised, and really puts you in the head of the main character. The cast all do great work, mainly Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter, with the first two giving some of their all time best performances. It used to be my favourite of Fincher’s movies, and it still remains one of his best movies for sure.

My review of Fight Club

3. The Social Network

The Social Network is quite possibly David Fincher’s most acclaimed movie of his entire career. The story of Facebook doesn’t sound interesting on paper, but Fincher, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and co. took this story and made it into a riveting and phenomenal movie, which I would class as a modern classic.

The Social Network is amazing on pretty much every level. Aaron Sorkin’s script and has you kept interested, entertained and invested throughout the whole story. It’s very fast paced, snappy, and the dialogue is perfect, drawing you into absolutely everything that’s happening. The acting all around was great, Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara, Justin Timberlake and more give incredible performances in their parts. This script is already fantastic, but it’s also paired with David Fincher’s perfect direction, which takes it to another level and puts it on the screen in the best way possible. The scenes are filled with such intensity, style and are very sleek. The whole movie is edited fantastically, there really was no fat left over, and conveys so many information within 2 hours. It cuts between multiple points in time and yet you can follow everything very well. It’s one of those movies that every time I revisit it, I’m blown away at just how amazingly made it was. All around, The Social Network is an incredible movie, and again, is a classic.

My review of The Social Network

2. Se7en

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Se7en is David Fincher’s first movie after his difficult experience with making Alien 3, it really showed everyone his strongest talents and that he’s a fantastic director. It’s an incredible well made piece of filmmaking that still holds up 25 years later.

Se7en is one of the best neo noir films for sure. The story is far from predictable, with a well thought out script with plenty of twists and turns that keeps you invested. It’s very intriguing and entertaining as we are looking into this mystery along with the main characters. It takes you to an incredibly impactful memorable finale, and while there’s plenty of jokes surrounding it mainly around a now iconic line, it’s a genuine haunting and affecting ending to an already dark story. The performances are fantastic from everyone especially Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, who make for a great dynamic. Fincher directed Se7en greatly with such a dark and stunning visual style and effective disturbing imagery that heightened the tension, showing enough to unsettle you but not too much that it feels like it’s trying too hard. Among one of my favourite films of all time and essential viewing for sure.

My review of Se7en

1. Zodiac

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Zodiac is David Fincher’s most complex movie to date, an excellently made and intriguing mystery thriller based on true events. With this film, Fincher is at the top of his game, and it is a masterpiece for sure.

Zodiac works excellently on every single level. The script is perfect, it engages the viewer with its great dialogue, and the screenplay is packed with witty dialogue and interesting characters. There was a lot of attention to detail, from the writing to the direction. We are discovering the mystery alongside the main characters, and the time really flies by as you become just as obsessed as they are. It keeps you engaged and interested in every twist and turn, and never loses you. The cast are great, especially the three main leads in Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo. Of course, Fincher directs incredibly well. It’s perfect on a technical level, very well shot and accurately recreates a vision of 1970s’s San Francisco. It may not be as dark as Se7en or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but the fact that Zodiac is based on true story, and a case that wasn’t really solved, makes it even more unsettling and haunting. The moments of tension and suspense were nervewrecking, from the Zodiac killing scenes to the iconic basement scene. Above all else, Zodiac is Fincher’s most complete movie, along with The Social Network. I’ve seen it so many times and like all of Fincher’s films, it gets better with every viewing.

My review of Zodiac

How would you rank David Fincher’s filmography?

Mank (2020) Review

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Mank

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & suicide references
Cast:
Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz
Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies
Lily Collins as Rita Alexander
Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer
Tom Pelphrey as Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Sam Troughton as John Houseman
Ferdinand Kingsley as Irving Thalberg
Tuppence Middleton as Sara Mankiewicz
Tom Burke as Orson Welles
Joseph Cross as Charles Lederer
Jamie McShane as Shelly Metcalf
Toby Leonard Moore as David O. Selznick
Monika Gossmann as Fräulein Frieda
Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst
Director: David Fincher

1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he races to finish “Citizen Kane.”

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Mank was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. I really didn’t quite know what to expect from it; the summary didn’t really sound interesting as it was a movie about the writing of Citizen Kane (which I only got around to watching for the first times this year). The reason I was really interested in Mank was because it was David Fincher’s latest movie, and his first movie in 6 years since his previous movie with Gone Girl. Even then I’m not sure why he chose to do this out of everything, nonetheless I was interested. Having seen it, I can say that it’s quite different from anything he’s done before. It’s an incredibly well made and technically perfect film, and I was quite invested throughout.

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The script from Fincher’s father Jack Fincher is fantastic, and really works well. If you haven’t seen Citizen Kane, it might be worth checking it out now before watching Mank, honestly I think it’s a good movie that’s worth watching anyways. I will say at the very least, it would help to watch or read some brief summary about what Citizen Kane is about, just to give some level of context and to somewhat understand the references and connections. However, it’s not essential for enjoying Mank. Before I move onto what the movie is really about, I should mention the concerns from many that this script was written following a widely disputed article called Raising Kane claiming that Citizen Kane director Orson Welles didn’t deserve screenwriting credit. For those who really care deeply about these things, there’s a scene or two of Orson Welles towards the end of Mank at the end which might annoy you but that’s it. From what I can tell, the script was polished so that the anti-Welles aspect was toned down significantly. At its core, the movie is more about the protagonist’s life. Instead of showing the actual struggle of writing Citizen Kane, Mank chose to show the personal circumstances and political landscape that Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz was living in, and how those elements greatly influenced the film. The movie really started out mainly about the screenwriting, so when stuff like a governor election was constantly being mentioned, you didn’t know to begin with that it was a big part at first. This movie is really about Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, and while some might slap it with the label of being yet another love letter to Hollywood (i.e. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Mank is not quite that. The movie really takes on the flaws of Hollywood and the old studio system, and evaluates their relevance in today’s society just as they were just under a century ago. It’s also refreshingly cynical, and what’s shown in this movie does really remain relevant to this day. Politics actually plays quite a large part in this movie. 30s Hollywood was heavily conservative, and while Mankiewicz was very much a staunch leftist socialist, he’s forced to support political ideologies that he’s fundamentally against to remain in the good graces of the heads of the studios that he’s working at. I thought that was very interesting to watch.

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Again, Fincher doesn’t show the impact of Citizen Kane, rather the political climate surrounding the time of its creation and release, and how huge an impact film has on people’s attitudes and even beliefs. I’m not going to say there’s an angle of viewing a movie that will guarantee you to love it, but it’s worth going in expecting a movie about 30s and 40s Hollywood and politics at the time more than a movie about the writing  Citizen Kane (or if you haven’t watched CK, the writing of a really old movie that’s apparently one of the greatest movies ever made). While among Fincher’s filmography I might not rewatch it all that much, I get the feeling that I would like and appreciate it a lot more if I rewatched it, now that I know what the movie is really about. As for the script itself, this is one of the best scripts that Fincher has worked with. I was constantly invested throughout the runtime. The scenes are written with a good flow (helped by the editing of course). It’s also surprisingly comedic, this is probably Fincher’s funniest movie next to Fight Club. Mank has a lot of dialogue and exposition, and fortunately the dialogue itself is greatly written and witty, the whole script in fact was quite witty. The actual structure of the whole movie mimics Citizen Kane’s, jumping all over the place between present day and numerous flashbacks. While some would find it to be rather messy, I was on board with this unconventional storytelling. If there’s a clear cut issue I had with the movie, I do have a minor issue with the ending. It’s not bad perse but it’s rather anti-climactic, especially with what came just beforehand. Another issue other was again with the portrayal of Orson Welles, who felt more like an abstraction and less of a person. Though I know certain people will take greater issue with it than I. As it was. he worked for the movie, even though it’s clear to even me that some parts didn’t happen like it was portrayed in the movie. I can see people calling the movie boring, and I don’t really blame them. I was never not invested in what was happening, but with the first act I was not really sure where this story was going. Once I knew what the movie was really about, that’s when I got fully on board with it.

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The performances were all great, and everyone played their parts very well. Gary Oldman gives quite possibly his career best performance as Herman J. Mankiewicz. As “Mank” he really does embody the protagonist well, as an alcoholic screenwriter, who can be frustrating at times but at the same time entertaining to watch and likable. Oldman really brings a lot of life to Mank and really makes him work. Amanda Seyfried is another standout, also giving possibly her best performance yet, she’s such an onscreen presence and stands out in every scene she’s in. Oldman and Seyfried particularly share excellent chemistry with each other. Lily Collins is also good, also playing off Oldman very well in her scenes. Charles Dance and Arliss Howard are other highlights in the supporting cast, and other actors like Tuppence Middleton, Tom Pelphrey and Tom Burke (the latter of whom does an excellent Orson Welles impression) also play their respective parts well.

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This is a David Fincher film, so you know it’s going to be fantastically directed, with a lot of attention to detail. Black and white aside, you wouldn’t know that Fincher directed this aside from the fact that it is perfect on a technical level. The cinematography is beautiful, with striking lighting, and seemed to imitate the lighting of Citizen Kane. There’s a moment where an empty bottle falls from an intoxicated Mank’s hand, filmed similarly to the opening of Citizen Kane with the dropping the snow globe. It really does fit the time period perfectly. The production and costume designs are great and accurate to the era. The sound design is worth mentioning too, as it’s imitating the sound of early theatres. There’s even cue marks or changeover cue (also known as cigarette burns) in the top right hand corner of the screen at points, which indicate that a reel needed to be changed back in the old days of film. Really everything is done to try to recreate the time period. The only thing missing is that it’s filmed on digital and the aspect ratio is different from back then, and making digital feel like film is quite impressive in itself. The editing is top notch too, as you’d expect from Fincher. Every time there’s a scene and time period change, words will be typed across the screen typed like a typewriter typing on a page, and it’s a simple yet effective technique. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have been scoring David Fincher’s movies from The Social Network onwards, and they also did the score for Mank. This is quite a different type of score for them, apparently they were using instruments only available from the 30s and the music is very much jazz inspired. It fits the movie perfectly and really adds to the atmosphere.

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Mank is not going to appeal to a lot of people, and I can’t tell for sure whether you’ll like it or not. However I found it to be an incredible movie. The script was great and surprisingly dense, David Fincher’s direction is again outstanding, and the performances are all stellar, with Oldman and Seyfried being the highlights. I’m not sure I’d say that it’s one of Fincher’s best films as of yet, but that’s only because there are many other outstanding movies from him which I’d place before it. I still feel comfortable calling it one of the best films of 2020 for sure.