Oscar Watch: Mank

For two months now, I have had David Fincher’s Mank ranked at the top of the Best Picture contenders and that was with zero buzz about its quality. Why? The biographical drama, which tells the saga of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and his battles with the bottle and the making of the film, sounded like Oscar bait from its announcement. Fincher is, of course, a heralded filmmaker who’s seen two of his pictures (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network) nab Best Picture nods. Neither won, but many (including this blogger) feel that Network should have done so over The King’s Speech a decade ago.

Ahead of its November 13th limited theatrical bow and December 4th Netflix streaming debut, Mank screened for critics yesterday. While the official embargo has yet to lapse, reaction is out. And it confirms that Fincher’s first pic in six years (since Gone Girl) should score plenty of nominations. As I’ve estimated for several weeks, you would be smart to bet that this will receive the most mentions on nomination morning.

Let’s break them down. Picture and Director appear to be foregone conclusions at this juncture. Gary Oldman is highly likely to get his third Best Actor nomination. That said, after winning just three years ago for Darkest Hour, I don’t foresee a victory. On a side note, the Best Actress winner from 2017 (Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) also looks like a locked in nominee in 2020 for Nomadland. Amanda Seyfried appears poised for her first nomination in Supporting Actress in her role as Marion Davies. Supporting Actor is more murky. While Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst could sneak in, the race is quite crowded. I wouldn’t count on Dance or costars Tom Pelphrey or Arliss Howard getting in over the considerable competition. Many come from the same streaming service like the cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7 (most notably Mark Rylance and Sacha Baron Cohen) and the late Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods. 

The screenplay is solely credited to the director’s deceased father Jack. An Original Screenplay nod is inevitable with the biggest competition so far being Aaron Sorkin for Trial. The tech race possibilities are plentiful: Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, Original Score (from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), Sound, Makeup and Hairstyling. All in all, Mank could conceivably hit about a dozen nominations.

Now let’s get serious. Could it win Best Picture? Some early buzz suggests it might be too geared toward cinephiles and not a mass audience to achieve that. I’m not so sure. I would say the same could be said for recent winners like The Artist and Birdman. Hollywood loves features about its own industry and this might be the granddaddy of them all considering the subject matter. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mank is still listed in first place when I update my guesstimates next Thursday. I am confident it will never fall below the upper echelon. As for Fincher, he may well be in line for a Director victory and that’s even if Mank doesn’t win the biggest prize. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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