People of Color, Women, Streamers Dominate 93rd Oscar Nominations

Netflix’s Mank led a set of nominations reflecting increased diversity for the 93rd Academy Awards, which honors movies released in 2020.

In a livestream from London March 15, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas and her musician-actor husband Nick Jonas read the nominees covering 23 categories for the Oscars, which will air on ABC TV on April 25 from both Union Station Los Angeles and the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

Mank, starring Gary Oldman — a film about scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote Citizen Kane — earned 10 nominations, including best picture and best director (David Fincher). Oldman was nominated for best actor, while Amanda Seyfried earned a nom for best supporting actress.

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For the first time, a record nine non-white actors were nominated for awards, including Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah), Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami), LaKeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah), Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), the late Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Steven Yeun (Minari), Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday).

Notably, two women, Emerald Fennell (for Promising Young Woman) and Chloe Zhao (Nomadland), were nominated for best director for the first time.

Six movies earned six nominations each, including Netflix’s Judas and the Black Messiah; Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7; A24’s Minari; Sony Pictures Classics’ The Father;  Searchlight Pictures’ Nomadland (available on Hulu); and Amazon Studios’ Sound of Metal. Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman received five nominations.

Mank

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Netflix;
Drama;
Rated ‘R’ for some language.
Stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tom Pelphrey, Arliss Howard, Tuppence Middleton, Joseph Cross, Sam Troughton, Toby Leonard Moore, Ferdinand Kingsley, Tom Burke, Charles Dance.

David Fincher’s Mank is as much a rebuke of the politics of Hollywood as it is a peek behind the scenes at the creative process that led to Citizen Kane, which is often regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.

The film’s look and feel is definitely an homage to Kane, from its black-and-white photography, to the framing of specific shots, to a time-shifting narrative structure, and a sound mix that seems to emulate classic films. The only thing Fincher seemingly didn’t do was crop the film to a 4:3 aspect ratio.

The docu-drama focuses on the career of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who won an Oscar co-authoring the Kane screenplay with Orson Welles. In the film, Mank (Gary Oldman) works on the Kane script while recovering from a car accident at a retreat in California’s Mojave Desert, and recounts to those around him who inspired the characters in it, leading to flashbacks to the events in question.

Citizen Kane, of course, is famously based on publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst and his mistress, Marion Davies, played here by Charles Dance and Amanda Seyfried. For Oldman’s Mank, Hearst’s coziness with Hollywood generated enough resentment to inspire him to pick him apart in his screenplay.

The inciting event in particular seems to be the 1934 California gubernatorial election, in which Hearst and Hollywood backed Republican incumbent Frank Merriam over the Democrats’ nominee, socialist author Upton Sinclair. Mank sympathized with Sinclair’s anti-poverty positions and took offense to Hearst’s bankrolling of propaganda films by MGM, Mank’s home studio.

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Fincher’s depiction of classic Hollywood will be catnip for film fans, particularly viewers with an affinity for Citizen Kane, but also history buffs in general. On the other hand, ruminations about Mank’s health, his alcohol dependency and frictions between him and the studio system tend to drag on a bit.

The depiction of Hollywood’s attempt to exert its influence over voters is one of those “the more things change, the more they stay the same” kind of moments, and certainly gives the film a timely quality despite its period setting. While some might see Mank’s moral stance as a left-wing defense of the little guy against the big bad corporate machine, it’s hard not to look at the unseemly alliance between Hearst and MGM chief Louis B. Mayer and not see parallels with the media and entertainment establishment’s distaste for Donald Trump (despite whatever message Fincher intended to relay).

The film’s relationship between politics and screenwriting in some ways brings to mind another recent film about a legendary screen scribe, 2015’s Trumbo, about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Oldman’s attempts to capture the affectations of a mid-20th-century Hollywood screenwriter are in many ways similar to Bryan Cranston’s efforts to do the same as Trumbo.

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The other aspect of Mank that will have historians poring over it is the question of how much of the Citizen Kane screenplay can actually be attributed to Welles. Mank seems to want to give most of the credit to its title subject, depicting Welles as a collaborator who earns a contractual credit but mostly calls to check in on Mank’s progress and edits the final product for being too long.

The screenplay for Mank was originally written in the 1990s by Jack Fincher, David’s father who died in 2003. He based the premise on an article from the 1970s that questioned whether Welles had anything to do with the Kane screenplay, a notion at Welles supporters have attacked vociferously.

The subject of the making of Citizen Kane was previously the focus of the 1999 HBO movie RKO 281 (a reference to Kane’s production number). However, that movie focused more on the collaboration between the two men, and attributed the rancor toward Hearst more toward Welles, while Mank, played there by John Malkovich, wanted to ease up — a stark contrast to Oldman’s version. Interestingly, the RKO 281 DVD is actually included as a bonus with some Citizen Kane boxed sets.

Lionsgate Announces ‘Hunter Killer’ Home Release

Lionsgate’s Summit Premiere will release the action-thriller Hunter Killer digitally Jan. 15, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 29.

Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini, Common and Toby Stephens star in the story of an American submarine captain (Butler) who gets caught up in an effort to rescue the Russian president from a coup.

The film earned $15.8 million at the domestic box office.

Extras include a “Surface Tension: Declassifying Hunter Killer” featurette and an audio commentary with director Donovan Marsh.

The 4K Ultra HD combo pack will include Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio.

‘Air Force One’ Coming on 4K UHD Nov. 6 From Sony

Air Force One, starring Harrison Ford at the President of the United States, debuts on 4K Ultra HD and on digital in 4K Nov. 6 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In the 1997 film directed by Wolfgang Petersen, the president (Ford) fights to save his family and the hostages aboard Air Force One when communist radicals led by Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) hijack the plane.

Fully restored in 4K from the original camera negative, the 4K Ultra HD disc features high dynamic range with Dolby Atmos audio. Bonus features include audio commentary with Petersen.

Best Picture Winner ‘Shape of Water’ Among Oscar Honorees Ready to Score on Home Video

The Shape of Water won the big prize at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony March 4, taking Best Picture among its four trophies, in addition to Best Director for Guillermo del Toro, Best Original Score and Best Production Design. The film is available now digitally and comes to Blu-ray and DVD March 13 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Fox’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won Best Actress for Frances McDormand (who previously won 20 years ago for Fargo) and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell. The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, available on disc and digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, won three Oscars — Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Best Actor went to Gary Oldman for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, available on home video from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The film also won best Makeup & Hairstyling, primarily for the work transforming Oldman into Churchill.

Best Supporting Actress went to Allison Janney for I, Tonya, which was released digitally March 2 and arrives on Blu-ray and DVD March 13.

Pixar’s Coco, available on home video from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Remember Me.”

Netflix’s Russian-doping documentary Icarus won Best Documentary Feature. It’s Netflix’s second-ever Oscar, after winning Best Documentary Short last year for The White Helmets.

Universal’s Get Out won Best Original Screenplay for Jordan Peele.

Sony Pictures’ Call Me by Your Name won for Best Adapted Screenplay for James Ivory, who became the oldest-ever Oscar winner at age 89.

Warner’s Blade Runner 2049 won two Oscars, for Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins, his first win in 14 nominations.

Phantom Thread won for Best Costume Design. Universal releases the film digitally March 27 and on Blu-ray and DVD April 10.

A year following one of the biggest snafus in awards-show history, which saw the announcement of the wrong Best Picture winner, the Oscar ceremony offered a measure of atonement for presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (now marking the 51st anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde), who were brought back again to give out the top award of the night. This time things went off without a hitch, no doubt helped by envelopes with the correct categories written on them twice in big bold gold letters.

A complete list of winners is available at Oscars.com.

Darkest Hour

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 2/27/18;
Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $54.55 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some thematic material.
Stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ben Mendelsohn.

Darkest Hour is a solid character drama about Winston Churchill’s first few weeks as prime minister of Great Britain in 1940, as he was thrust into the chaos of the early days of World War II.

With Hitler on the verge of conquering France and setting his sights on England, Churchill must contend not only with his country’s rapidly deteriorating military position, but also calls for peace talks from within his own party — from the very people whose appeasement policies helped put Churchill in this difficult position to begin with.

The crisis comes to a head with the evacuation at Dunkirk, as Churchill is determined to rescue British troops despite long odds his plans can succeed. In showing what took place in the halls of British government as the soldiers waited on the beaches for a rescue, Darkest Hour serves as an interesting companion piece to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which hit theaters just a few months earlier and presented the point of view of the evacuating troops.

Gary Oldman practically disappears into the role of Churchill, aided by a complex body makeup to add age and girth. Numerous actors have taken a turn at Churchill over the years, but Oldman’s is likely to draw some inevitable comparisons with John Lithgow’s Emmy-winning take on Netflix’s “The Crown” due to the close proximity of the projects. While Lithgow is just as effective in portraying Churchill’s self-assuredness, temper and arrogance, there’s no mistaking it’s Lithgow. Whereas with Oldman it’s easy to get caught up in his performance, as really it’s only his eyes that provide the telltale reminder of who is actually up there on screen.

As far as comparisons go, however, Ben Mendelsohn is in a less-enviable position for his brief turn as King George VI, with both Colin Firth’s turn in The King’s Speech and Jared Harris on “The Crown” providing fresh points of comparison for performances as the king in earlier and later periods of his life, respectively. Mendelsohn, at least, has the advantage of somewhat resembling the real-life George, as noted by director Joe Wright in a solo commentary track included with the Blu-ray.

Wright’s commentary ends up presenting a nice mix of behind-the-scenes information and some insights into the real story. There are also two short featurettes: an eight-minute making-of video and a four-minute look at Oldman’s performance.