Arthouse Garage Podcast

Podcast Transcript for Episode 40: Mank

Read the Podcast Transcript for Episode 40: Mank

Read the transcript below:

Andrew Sweatman 0:08
Hello, hello and welcome back to art house garage, the snob free film podcast where we make art house indie classic and foreign cinema accessible to the masses. I’m your host Andrew Sweatman. And we are continuing season six of the podcast looking at the best films of 2020. These are streaming favorites from the year as well as possible awards contenders for the coming months. So far, we’ve looked at movies like The Great documentaries, Dick Johnson is dead, and welcome to Chechnya, and some notable indies like the assistant. Coming up, we’ll be looking at titles like Nomad land, one night in Miami, on the rocks, and many more. Today’s movie is one that I would not be surprised to see winning some awards in a few months. It’s called Mank. From director David Fincher starring Gary Oldman, Amanda ciphered, Lily Collins and several other recognizable names. It tells the behind the scenes story, or version of it, of the writing of one of the greatest films ever made. Citizen Kane. Gary Oldman plays the film screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, Mank of the title, and follows his writing process his dealings with Orson Welles and his fascinating relationships with William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies. It’s a nitty gritty look at kind of Hollywood royalty and sort of a mythical time in movie history. So this is definitely going to appeal to a lot of cinephiles on this very podcast back in Episode 24. We discussed Citizen Kane, as part of our classic movie starter pack. My guest for that season was Rance Collins, a writer and podcaster and basically a walking encyclopedia of classic Hollywood knowledge. So as soon as I heard that this was the subject of David Fincher, his next movie, I knew rants has got to be on the podcast, I’ve got to try to make that happen. So I’m very pleased that he is here. I’m having him back for sort of a follow up in a way to our previous Citizen Kane discussion rants, thank you so much for coming back to the show. And have you been?

Rance Collins 2:04
I’m great. It’s great to be back to the show. I, I you know, I’m going to be watching all these movies as they hit streaming. So I’m just gonna go ahead and throw my name in the hat. have me back whenever you’re like, you can’t find somebody just be like, oh, maybe

Andrew Sweatman 2:18
we’ll do it. Just go watch the movie. Yeah, that’s, that’s something I’ve come to realize about you as I was like, should I ask I don’t want to bother him. And he’s just like, yeah, you’re always just down to do it. Let’s do it. Five minutes. Yes. Well, Rance when I had you on the podcast in the past, we’ve talked a lot about classic cinema. We’ve also talked a lot about the Oscars. Also stop here and recommend, by the way, rantes has another podcast, which is called the envelope, please, in which he and his co host, Sam are podcasting through every Best Picture winner. And not only that, but giving me a ton of historical context for the Oscar ceremony year by year. It’s fascinating. I haven’t listened to all of it yet. But I made sure to listen regularly. And it’s, it’s great. And he and Sam are so fun to listen to. so highly recommend that. So anyway, just before we get into mank I’m curious what you think about this coming Oscar season? 20 2021? I guess it’s it’s an unusual What’s your thoughts?

Rance Collins 3:17
You know, it’s so interesting, because usually at about this time, we would we would know, pretty, pretty succinctly what the nominees might be. Yeah, because usually, by this time, we’ve had quite a few movies released. And we’ve had awards go out from some of the newspaper associations, who always, you know, like New York Film Critics, and you know, all the different papers that give out awards typically do so in December, you know, we would have a clear idea of where the season was heading, but because of the extension, and also because of the lack of theatrical releases or true theatrical releases. It’s a whole new ballgame. Yeah, there isn’t the typical awards campaign season. where, you know, if you were here in Los Angeles, you would, you would know that award season is truly a season where there are a series of very holy holy toity industry events. where, you know, people invite you to screenings through sag or PGA or TGA and have Q and A’s and all things hosted for critics, things hosted for, you know, people in the industry, and all of them are aimed at getting votes and awards, and that whole season just doesn’t exist in the same way

Andrew Sweatman 4:55
if any of that kind of thing happening virtually. Is that possible, or is it pretty much just not happening?

Rance Collins 4:59
Well Yeah, I think that there are events happening virtually, especially like more of the press junket side of it. I don’t know. Honestly, I do have a friend who, who used to work in awards who I need to talk to about this, actually. Because I, I don’t know if they’re just doing I mean, like, everything, everything’s already available digitally, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s so interesting, everything’s gonna be released on these platforms. I’m sure these people are getting advanced screeners as usual and whatnot. But I mean, everybody’s just gonna watch make on Netflix, you know, everybody’s just gonna

Andrew Sweatman 5:39
see it a week early, great. Like, it’s not. Yeah, now.

Rance Collins 5:42
It’s like a whole. And, you know, hopefully this doesn’t have, I think, for those of us who truly love movies, we were hoping that this doesn’t have a negative a negative effect in the future, because there are film, there are film distribution companies that are truly suffering, right now. Theater chains, and we need people I just want to take this opportunity to say, when the opportunity to go back to the theater safely is there, which you know, maybe this summer or next fall before that happens. Get out of the house and go to a movie theater. Yeah. You know, you’ve been watching movies at home for you will have been watching movies at home for a year and a half, you can go you go to the movies and try to support the medium and the way that it was meant to be seen because I gotta say something like a movie that we’re about to talk about, I think would have really benefited from a theatrical experience. Yeah.

Andrew Sweatman 6:46
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. And then recording this just two days after the the big Warner Brothers news about everything getting in the end date streaming next year, and so everyone’s anxious about what that means long term. So yes, it’s, it’s a mess.

Rance Collins 7:00
I feel like for Warner Brothers that may be more of a move to try to get people to sign up for HBO man. Yeah, absolutely. Honestly. Because the I, I feel a little bad for wb because i think that i think the pandemic really screwed over their rollout for HBO Max, because the big thing that was going to happen was they were going to have that friends reunion. Oh, yeah. That was gonna premiere the day that HBO max rolls and had that fringe reunion happen, they probably would have had a much different situation on deadline,

Unknown Speaker 7:35
you know.

Rance Collins 7:37
But it didn’t happen because of the pandemic

Andrew Sweatman 7:39
said, and I’ve heard there’s just been confusion because they have what HBO next and HBO are now and go And so yeah, it’s there’s this confusion. Yeah,

Rance Collins 7:50
they could have they? I mean, I’m sure everybody thought this like, why didn’t you just expand HBO Go? Why didn’t you make it? Why wasn’t it called Warner Brothers? Like, what was the you know, but here, they have Max, they’re going with it. And there is some interesting content coming out on HBO max in the next few months, including some movies that will probably be an awards.

Andrew Sweatman 8:14
Yeah. And I’ll go and just say to you, I think it it’s, for me, it’s one of the better streaming services right now. Because even beyond the theatrical stuff that’s coming. It’s got a lot of TCM stuff. So if you don’t have TCM, you can watch a lot of classic movies. There’s like a TCM hub on there. And then Studio Ghibli if you’re an anime stuff at all, those are streaming for the first time. So it has a large catalog. And I mean, and plus a honestly

Rance Collins 8:36
think it has the best collection of movies of any of the streaming platforms and has the K tyrian.

Andrew Sweatman 8:41
Yeah, collection.

Rance Collins 8:43
Um, and I feel like the other like Hulu and Netflix are much more television focused. Yeah, you know, and, and over on HBO Max, you know, they have they have some good shows, as in, you know, they have I don’t know a lot about their originals, but they have some good documentaries, and they have some good historical web programming, but in hbn, of course, they have all of the HBO stuff which is you know, very high quality. Yeah, but they they have such a robust selection films, both classic and modern. Yeah. That you can’t find anywhere else.

Andrew Sweatman 9:26
Yeah, I was just looking today too. And they have a cool in the classic section they have this cool little film school one on one thing and so you can’t watch Casablanca right there and Citizen Kane and, and jaws and like all these huge titles that they’ve they’ve just got lined up for you. It’s It’s pretty cool. So anyway, enough, HBO Yeah, I guess but this movie is not on HBO. We’re gonna talk about what it’s like. So there’s your streaming breakdown. It is

Rance Collins 9:51
it is weird to me that I don’t think Citizen Kane is streaming for free anywhere right now. Is

Andrew Sweatman 9:58
it just on HBO max. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 10:01
Oh, it’s on it is it is yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 10:02
that’s right. So yeah, it’s weird to see that HBO in a way

Rance Collins 10:07
in a way they are it’s a little surprising to me that they didn’t like pay ridiculous amount of money put it on Netflix because you would think they would want it to be there is like the perfect companion piece. But they didn’t Yeah, cuz. But I think regardless, this might end up benefiting HBO Max, because they might get some super subscriptions from people curious to watch this as a game now. And anything to get people to watch a classic is always good for me.

Andrew Sweatman 10:36
I agree. Well, with that in mind, let’s I guess move on and talk about make

Unknown Speaker 10:55
some modern day version of key.

Unknown Speaker 11:10
Bank. It’s awesome. Wells. Houseman tells me we have you just where we want you.

Unknown Speaker 11:15
I understand we’ve 90 days, or 60 is just cut in one.

Unknown Speaker 11:25
lb This

Unknown Speaker 11:26
is my brother Joe. Nice to meet you, Joseph. What makes me cry, emotion. quitter, I feel emotion, here, here. And here.

Andrew Sweatman 11:39
Alright, let’s talk about make. So as I said at the top of the show, this film is about Herman Mankiewicz, and the process of writing Citizen Kane, including a lot of personal and professional relationships that fed into the story he was writing. It was directed by David Fincher who also directed movies like Fight Club, the social network, and most recently Gone Girl. The script for Mank was written by David Fincher his late father, jack, and I, from what I’ve read, this has been sort of a passion project for David Fincher, since its earliest days of being a filmmaker, he even had a different cast lined up at one point, I think, in the 90s. But that was postponed. And so now it’s finally here. And I must say, I’m a fan of it. It’s got that whole, like movies about movies thing going for it that critics tend to love and award ceremonies tend to love. So I’m sure that will play into his success if it if it finds that one thing I didn’t expect was, Guess how political This is. And in some of the the modern resonance of the political side of it. rants, you are someone who is very interested in classic Hollywood, and very interested in politics. So I’m curious, yes. How did that mixture of kind of movies and politics almost like political intrigue, work for you in this? Well, it’s

Rance Collins 12:52
interesting that they that they included that because you don’t hear a lot about it in that particular era. Usually, you don’t start hearing about politics with mixing with movies, in the way that people explore that period, at least until you get to the communist good tribe, and the late 40s, early 50s. But, um, the very much so you know, Louis Mayer was indeed a very active member of the Republican Party in California. And, you know, there was a lot of conversations that happen between Hollywood and Washington in in those days, particularly because what isn’t really discussed in the film, there was a whole there was a whole movement after the 1920s brought about some salacious material and silent films. And then that kept going in the early era of sound in a period they called pre code. And the pre code movies had material that you don’t necessarily expect to find in classic films. Yeah, where people talk a little bit more frankly, about sex and violence. And because of that, there was a risk that there was going to be federal censorship bans on movies. And that is why the Hays Code came into play in 1934 is one that went strictly into effect. And that was because they were trying to prevent federal government from getting in and censoring movies for them. So they were censoring themselves basically. So a lot of that relationship had to do with keeping things keeping the industry afloat, keeping keeping everything Going and addition. I mean, you know, for the classic era, all the studios own their own theater, feeders. And so which is apparently, again possible because the heard about that, because the template was struck down. Yeah. Um, but politics and Hollywood were very much tied together. And of all of the studio heads, Louis Mayer was most certainly the most involved. At least with the Republican Party.

Andrew Sweatman 15:36
So that’s really interesting.

Rance Collins 15:39
Yeah, for it really, really is. And of course, we touch on William Randolph Hearst throughout the film, who, indeed, was the founding father. The type of journalism that has become so problematic. Yes. Yeah. With cable news, so

Andrew Sweatman 16:01
yeah, yeah, I listened back to our discussion of Citizen Kane. And we kind of talked about that back then about, you know, the, the yellow journalism we see in that film is, is very much the model and being exploited in political arena is just the way we see and Citizen Kane happening. So it’s very interesting. Yeah. And

Rance Collins 16:18
the way we see it, or the way we see and mank whenever there that scene at the beach when they’re listening to the radio, and he recognizes the woman’s voice and knows it’s an actress who’s, or rich lady who’s actually not poor. But yeah, you know, telling the

Andrew Sweatman 16:35
story about I’m poor. And that’s why I’m voting Republican in this election. And oh,

Unknown Speaker 16:38
yes, yes. Yeah.

Andrew Sweatman 16:40
All the updates and clear stuff was really interesting and informative for me, because I’m, you know, I feel like it’s a jumping off point. I should probably, like, read actual history books about this, because it’s, it’s really fascinating. And I’m curious how much they get, because it really seems to align, interestingly, with modern elections. I mean, he’s almost like Bernie, Bernie Sanders, like figure talking about socialist revolutions, and all that. And also, I mean, there’s just a familiar feeling with watching election results. And, and just being really disappointed with what happens. But I

Rance Collins 17:13
thought, visually, visually speaking, that that election party scene was probably the most striking in the phone. Yeah, that was a very, that was a very interesting sequence. Anyway, yeah. So story wise, there’s, there’s a lot of there’s a lot to, to mine, politically, for sure.

Andrew Sweatman 17:35
Yeah. And the whole propaganda storyline, so the studio is actually making propaganda films, and kind of where that goes, which I won’t spoil that that was a really compelling part of this movie. And I just didn’t expect any political stuff. So that was, that was pretty interesting. Yeah, maybe we can kind of transition into just talking historically in general about this. So again, when you and I talked about Citizen Kane, we, at that point, we kind of broke down the the Mankiewicz family tree, I don’t think we’d need to fully rehash that. But it’s interesting, because, you know, we’ll make it it’s personally,

Rance Collins 18:05
yes, I know the grandson of the person this movies about Yes.

Andrew Sweatman 18:09
Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been banquets. So that’s Herman’s grandson. Have you heard I actually found a quote from him online. But I’m curious, have you heard any reaction from him or his family about this?

Rance Collins 18:18
I haven’t talked to him personally about this. But I so I guess I’m just as informed as you are on his on his reactions, because I’ve just seen the interviews and read about them. But yes, for quite a while. Up until this year, actually, I was the his assistant. I’ve transitioned to other work since then. But I still am a freelance writer for Turner Classic Movies. And I write some of the scripts that end up going that he that he ends up repeating on air, he edits them, but I so I, I have been in my head at least once a month when I write some of these scripts, as I try to mimic his way of speaking.

Andrew Sweatman 19:06
See, if sort of some personal hooks into this movie, then it’s kind of an interesting, yes.

Rance Collins 19:12
Yeah. But then as someone I know, pretty well. And he, he is a writer as well, just like his grandfather. And while he doesn’t write screenplays, he is he is a someone with a journalism background. And he is very particular in very perfectionist and everything that he does, and it was interesting to watch a movie about his grandfather, um, where you see some of those same shades of perfectionism and fighting for your work. So I definitely see personalities, similarities.

Andrew Sweatman 19:49
Well, I can read the the quote that I found, I think he was on it was he was interviewed by deadline or something. I’ll link it in the show notes. I could find it but here’s the quote was, it fully comports with my image of my grandfather, as relayed by mostly by my father, but also my mother the few years that she got to spend with him, that he was the smartest person in the room, the funniest person in the room, even when he had been drinking, which was often and that he was never mean ever. My father really admired him even though of course, he wished he hadn’t self destructed in the way that he did. So that was really interesting. And yeah, if that’s true, then I think the movie got it right in that way because I think that some of those those scenes where they’re sitting around the fire talking with at these social events are probably the most compelling parts for me. Just kind of listening to the banter and yes, the political Enya he’s clearly drunk and kind of poking poking at people but in a way that’s respectful somehow or at least good natured, I think, but yeah, I thought that was really interesting.

Rance Collins 20:50
Yeah, definitely. Those those scenes I thought all the sequences with Marion Davies were the strongest for me. And she’s always in those groups scenes. I think that Amanda Seifried yes cipher. cipher it, I think that she, she pulls out a very strong I, I fully expect her to get a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Yeah. She does a very good job. And I think that the actors should all be commended to for the way that they embody the speech patterns of the day. And the kind of transatlantic accent that was in vogue at the time. There is a there’s an authenticity to their performances that I don’t always see in period films, I think. I think the strongest parts of the movie, the true strongest elements are the acting and the writing.

Andrew Sweatman 21:58
Yeah, I was going to call it a man deciphered, as well as probably my favorite performance in it. I think she’s just really, I have a great screen presence. And also, yeah, from what I know of the period seemed to kind of nail that. The other one that I think was just so much fun to watch was his name was Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer. And just he’s larger than life feeling a little bit and also very manipulative, but it really funny. I thought it was a great performance from him, though. Yeah,

Rance Collins 22:27
for sure. Yeah. There. Yeah, there’s definitely I also Oh, what’s the actor’s name? The guy who does Orson Welles.

Andrew Sweatman 22:35
I was going to talk to Tom Burke is his name.

Rance Collins 22:37
Yeah. Tom Berkey. He doesn’t look exactly like him. But he does nail is I mean, he sounds exactly

Andrew Sweatman 22:46
like he need horses. Perfect. Yeah.

Rance Collins 22:48
The voice was the perfect, perfect, and it seems where he’s just disembodied on the phone. I would I thought it what is that Orson Welles? Yeah, um, it was a very, that was very, very good.

Andrew Sweatman 23:02
Yeah, I meant to look this up, too. But at the end, there’s a clip of an interview. And I was like, I was wondering, is that actually the real interview from Orson Welles? Or is this the Tom Burke actor? Again? I don’t know the answer that I maybe I can look it up in a second here. But I

Rance Collins 23:15
don’t actually know the answer that to it. So I assumed it was real based on the fact that it sounded different than everything else he had heard. Yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 23:22
I think it probably must be the case. Because it also just a blank screen. And it kind of gives you context and a caption of what’s happening. So yeah, it must be I’ma just assume that it is.

Rance Collins 23:31
I, I feel like that’s fair.

Andrew Sweatman 23:34
Well, I wanted to talk to you about, I mean, the historical accuracy of this, because that’s another huge question. And kind of hotly debated. And I’m kind of only dipping my toes into understanding all the controversy around it. But who actually wrote this movie is? It’s a big question, who actually wrote Citizen Kane, that is, some people claim that Orson Welles was more involved and other saying he wasn’t at all. So I wondered if Do you can you break down some of the different ideas around that? That question?

Rance Collins 24:04
Yeah, that’s where this movie I think, gets a little hard to track and where, where people might have issues is, most accounts seem to agree that Orson Welles had a very heavy hand in writing the film. And this takes a much more justice for the writers position, which is a message that I really, really like and respond to, but I’m not quite sure that in this particular instance, it’s entirely accurate. Like, I think it was more of a, like a, you know, the truth is halfway, you know, it’s not all Orson Welles, and it’s not all Herman megawhatts. It’s, it’s something between those two narratives, and I mean, quite certainly. Herman Mankiewicz was a brilliant writer. As was his idea His brother Joe, who’s far more well known, and who we’ve talked a lot about on All About Eve. And he just has a small part in this movie, you don’t really get an idea of the impact he would end up having. I mean, like, honestly, I, it’s Herman Mankiewicz life ends up being rather sad, because he does go with he has gone way too early because of whatever personal demons he might have had. But, um, but you know, in a way, I think that the thing, I think the intention behind this movie is almost to restore the legacy of an unsung hero of the Golden Age. Yeah. Who, whose life was kind of overshadowed by his brother who would become this Oscar darling. And who would make movies that might not out shine, Citizen Kane historically, but there’s more of him, and his name is on top of them, as opposed to Herman’s, who is, you know, who’s dwarfed by Orson Welles. Right? Yeah. Um, and I so I think that, I think that the, the movie maybe probably overstates the amount of impact, I’d be not the impact of it. I think it probably overstates how little Orson Welles did, right, with the script. But I think ultimately, the intention is good enough that it can be forgiven. Yeah, yeah. No,

Andrew Sweatman 26:36
yeah, I think I agree with that. So. So my understanding of kind of the issue is that we have this tendency to idolize directors and assume that no one else did anything on the movie, right. And especially someone like Orson Welles, who I think it was even in his contract that he was, you know, writing, producing all that. And that’s why he, the original contract, wrote banquets out of the screenwriting credit.

Rance Collins 26:59
And so interesting is it though, that this comes from somebody that this movie comes from somebody who is himself and on tour,

Andrew Sweatman 27:07
you know, that is very likely,

Rance Collins 27:09
yeah. Like a person, a person making a movie arguing for you to credit the writer. And, I mean, is this Writer Director, somebody else? Yeah. It was written by a relative, which is interesting. Yeah. Um, but I mean, ultimately, he is a writer, director. And he, he does. Yeah, ultimately get all he is ultimately going to be the one who gets all the credit for this film. Yeah. So

Andrew Sweatman 27:37
yeah, it’s a very good point. Yeah.

Rance Collins 27:39
It’s just an interesting, it is an interesting parallel. And I’m not saying he is his movie, clearly. Yeah. But will we wonder, will there be an origin story years from now, about how much of this movie is him? And how much is his dad? Right? Like, I mean, are we going to get that meta?

Unknown Speaker 27:59

Rance Collins 28:01
And, anyway, but ya know, it’s a it’s an interesting concept. And I think that’s ultimately what the purpose of the movie is. I think the purpose of the film is to make sure that is to give some credit to writers who don’t get credit.

Andrew Sweatman 28:25
Yeah. So and that seems to be so I watched the, like a YouTube explainer video talking about the history of the debate around this and one big thing in it is that in 1971, Pauline Kael, the renowned film critic, she wrote this piece that basically said with this movie says that Orson Welles did almost nothing in that Herman Mankiewicz wrote all this and didn’t get any credit. And it seems like since then, scholars have pretty much debunked that and said, The publican was way off, that he actually had a lot to do. wills had a lot to do with this. And so that’s that’s another interesting thing. So it seems like since Pauline Kael, the her theory has been proven wrong, and yet this movie’s kind of siding with her in a way. And interestingly, too, one thing I read is that David Fincher said at some point that he he did edit the mink script that his father wrote, because he felt it was too anti Orson Welles, so I can only imagine Yeah, because it’s it’s definitely isn’t like a pro Orson Welles film. So the interesting thing that it was even more anti in a way, apparently.

Rance Collins 29:32
Well, I mean, you can’t deny you can’t deny. If you watch this again, you can’t deny that. It? Is this the way the movie exists in this vacuum in 1941. We’re all of this stuff that’s in the movie didn’t happen before the film was made. And, you know, Herman Mankiewicz had been working in Hollywood for a decade at that point, and and the Other people who were in the film had been working for a long time. And sure, and maybe it’s part that this movie was made without very much interference from the studio. And so all of these people were able to go as far as they were able to creatively, but you can’t take Orson Welles out of that. Yeah. Because clearly he had an influence and the narrative structure in the

Andrew Sweatman 30:28
in the editing style and the cinematography, like, clearly, you can’t take wells out of that, right. And that’s so much legacy of it is the technical genius of it and all of that. And actually, that may be kind of transition to because I wanted to talk about, there’s some interesting connections between mank and Citizen Kane. Even like stylistically, structurally. So yeah, do you what do you have thoughts around that?

Rance Collins 30:57
I have to say like, this is probably the area that’s going to get the most praise, and yet, it’s where I start to have some issues. Interesting. Um, yes. I couldn’t, okay, this is something a problem that a lot of people probably will not have. But I, after living in LA, for so long, have seen a lot of movies on 35 millimeter film. in movie theaters. Yeah. And we don’t do that anymore. As a culture, everything’s digital. But there are lots of movies that are still shot on 35 millimeter, because people want to have the look, yeah, the 35 millimeter film. Um, because there is something about it that, I think is a noticeable quality. That is kind of magical. And if you want an example of that you can look at. I mean, last year, a Netflix movie called marriage story came out, and it was shot on film. And if you watch it, you can tell there is a quality about it, that maybe isn’t as crisp as digital. But there is a quality about digital that can look as detailed as it may be. It can look really flat. Yeah. And my issue with the visual look, was that I felt quite often, the picture looked like D saturated color. And not like black and white, because it was very clearly shot on digital. And then everything was done in post. Yeah, and I really question why all of this work was done to mimic technology that Fincher clearly had the budget, and the ability to use. Yeah, like he could have just gotten black and white film stock and shot it on film. Because if you would use black and white film stock, then you would have been able to, because what the movie doesn’t have visually, is the blacks are not black. Yeah, you know, there’s something in digital where it’s the blacks kind of have a gray about them. And that contrast is what I feel was missing. It felt very soft for the starkness of what black and white is. Yeah, so that is something I could tell they were trying they I and there’s times where trying is a little too much for me because you know, you have the little cigarette burn film from the real changes and all that stuff. And it’s a cute touch but if it’s fake Yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 33:53
when and you could have done the real thing.

Rance Collins 33:56
When you could have done the real I just am very confused. He it’s also not like Fincher hasn’t shot on film for Yes, for the last decade. He shot digitally, but he he clearly up until the late 2000s shot on film. He knows how to do it. He Netflix was will it through clearly a ton of money into this film it could have afforded film I don’t understand it really confuses me. And I think I think the movie would have really benefited from that there’s still some amazing sequences visually and all of the shot selections angles. Yeah. And what they’re going for with lighting is great, but I I challenge somebody on Twitter posted a picture of a shot of Johnny Depp walking between soundstages in Edgewood and then a similar shot from from this movie. And just looking at the two side by side you can see there is a classic quality That is missing. Wow.

Andrew Sweatman 35:02
I would love to find that tweet and try to link that because that sounds really interesting. Yeah, that’s a criticism that is really interesting. And one that I didn’t really think of, I did think, I don’t know, thinking about like digital black and white. That’s something that. So like in this film, they were clearly trying so hard to make it seem authentically, you know, of that period. It really is moving bad in a way that’s artistically creative. But then I think about something like Roma a couple years ago with a lot of Quran, where he very intentionally said, we’re gonna go digital and black and white and like, embrace the digital and that film is breathtakingly beautiful, I think, because he’s not trying to make it like an older black and white movie. He’s kind of pushing to something kind of, creatively new. So anyway, yeah,

Rance Collins 35:48
no, I mean, it’s, it’s the, there’s a reason that you make certain decisions and whether or not you choose to shoot on film, or digital, which they do both quite frequently today. There’s a reason why there’s, I mean, like, a lot of the big budget films end up being film. It’s because they want a certain look. And as great advance as digital has made in the last decade, there is still a quality that is very hard to mimic, because film is a physical medium to real, as opposed to, as opposed to a digital medium. Yeah, I mean, it is something where you are, you are capturing something with light on a physical piece of cellulite. And that intrinsically has a depth to it that cannot be mimicked with a series of numbers.

Andrew Sweatman 36:46
And your it seems like a perfect, perfect film to just choose film. Like if you have given the choice and why not choose film, in this case.

Rance Collins 36:53
Also weird to choose the edge. Wait, why not? Why not go with the classic aspect ratio? You know that? Yeah, like that’s that? I mean? I mean, I understand maybe you didn’t want to do that to confuse people. But why go with? They didn’t even go with 16. Nine, they went with 235 to one. And why? Why do that when you could have more absolutely mimics the pier. It’s just like, it’s just with the money amount of intention that went into every aspect of the art direction. And the post production end of this, it just confusing to me why they make things so much easier.

Andrew Sweatman 37:44
Yeah, that’s incredibly valid to my ears. That makes sense. And on that note, too, one thing that they did to kind of be quote unquote authentic was I read about the score, which is Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross, who I’m a big fan of, and I think this is a good score. It’s not like my favorite score of the year, but they used all kind of period instruments, which is unusual for them because they usually do all this electronic, but the

Rance Collins 38:07
score is great. Yeah, I really liked the score.

Andrew Sweatman 38:10
I will say that it’s a departure away. Yeah. Yeah. The sound is on to

Rance Collins 38:14
Yeah, yeah, the sound design, it takes a little getting used to when you’re first watching because it um, and I couldn’t decide if I liked it for a little bit because it is harder to make out. And there were times where I felt like it was harder than make out than watching an actual movie of the period. But, um, but it does. It did sound like the way I think of the sound design of Citizen Kane.

Andrew Sweatman 38:38
Yeah, like reading a tweet or something about that they the recording equipment they used mimicked that it does it sounds it sounds different. It sounds kind of quote unquote, old timey or something, which is funny. Yeah, tinny, anyway. Yeah. Yeah, there’s almost a little echo to it or something. But it also sounded rich in a way too. So it and I listened through air pods while on my streaming box. So how hilarious still here like old timey audio and the most insane violation AIDS.

Rance Collins 39:09
I appreciate that when people were driving in cars, you know, the backdrop looks like a rear projection as opposed to, like, I get the intentionality of that stuff. And I do appreciate that. It’s really it’s just really the one thing like why didn’t they shoot on film? That’s the only thing it ever that’s it also would have really helped them and covering up how Gary Oldman was much older than the character he was playing. So Gary Oldman does a great job. I don’t want to I don’t want to. Yeah, but he is at a lot of this movie is supposed to be in his 30s and no matter how hard to live, you live. Yeah, um, you’re not going to look like you’re in your sis. You’re not going to look 60 when you’re in your Yeah, when you’re in your her I think it’s 58 in real life. You’re not gonna look 58 when you’re 32,

Andrew Sweatman 40:02
right? Yeah, no, that is interesting thing too. I read a little, it was just some of his thoughts about playing this character. And he’s used to playing under lots of prosthetics. And he has Winston Churchill last year, and a lot of different makeups in the NBA, just all the crazy Harry Potter characters. He’s played in that kind of thing. And so to have nothing, and this was a choice by David Fincher and kind of an interesting one. Yeah, but

Rance Collins 40:26
I think it really works for his for the, for the quote, unquote, present day. Yeah, the 1940s 1941 stuff. That stuff makes sense to me. It’s just when we flashback I feel like the the stuff between him and Marion Davies is a little harder to I mean, it helps that William Randolph Hearst is so much older than her that, that he doesn’t seem as that much older than her, but I think they’re supposed they’re supposed to be in the same age range. So yeah, we’re almost the same age. Exactly.

Andrew Sweatman 41:00
They definitely feel that way. And some of those

Rance Collins 41:02
Yeah, cover so they don’t feel like contemporaries. They still feel like a father daughter. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to all of this criticism aside, I still think it’s a good movie. Yeah, I just, I’m just providing I’m doing that thing where you protect film, you know?

Andrew Sweatman 41:24
Well, speaking of the flashbacks, I think that’s that’s one of the things that I thought was probably a good choice plot wise to mimic Citizen Kane in a way that we have. We’re jumping around in time, it’s not as complex as Citizen Kane, which jumps back and forth, and sideways and forward, where this is pretty much one storyline with with cuts back, but I think it’s an effective way to provide context for you know, yeah, the quote, unquote, present day of the story. So that the plotting of it and the and all the dialogue was really well written. It the writing was,

Rance Collins 41:55
I think the writing was the was strongest element not aside from as that I do. And I think Gary Oldman gives a great performance, I miss only talking about age difference here being being a little confusing. You know, it’s only you can almost like get away with it, just because you don’t really know how old he is, until the moment where he says his age. And he says, he’s 42 and you’re just like,

Andrew Sweatman 42:21
Oh, interesting.

Rance Collins 42:23
It’s not the age I was getting, yeah, you’re watching this. Um, but I mean, I, it still is a, it still is a very good movie, and the writing is good. Okay, anyway.

Andrew Sweatman 42:38
I would think so I need to like, I’m sure someone will break this down in the next week or two. But there are several parallel shots that I noticed between Citizen Kane and bank two, you know, laying in a hospital bed and someone kind of coming in soft focus in the background. And that happens a few times here. And I seem to remember that from Citizen Kane. Are there other things like that, that I’m missing? That we’re kind of like easter eggs.

Rance Collins 43:04
I noticed I mentioned this earlier, the, the scene with the election, the editing style, during that period in particular reminded me of several of the montage sequences that are in Citizen Kane. And you know, the the montage sequences that mix in those extreme close ups and there was a lot of it, I don’t even think was necessarily direct visual nods just you could tell that the way they were framing and editing and lighting things was very much in in Ode to Susan Cain.

Andrew Sweatman 43:49
So you mentioned earlier kind of age difference there. I wanted to mention to Charles dance I think does a great job. He’s not in very much but I mean, I know him primarily from Game of Thrones, and always in a lot more stuff than that. But I thought he was really good particularly in the scene and near the end the kind of the dinner party that can goes wrong. Just kind of his his reactions to Gary Oldman, and almost an amused kind of a face but obviously exuding a lot of like, power and like dis dis taste as well. I thought it was really I get performance from him.

Rance Collins 44:22
Yeah, no, Charles dance was was very, very good as well. You ran out first. I enjoyed all the locations they used. Yeah, as well. It was nice to Although I will say easter egg for anyone who’s curious. They do use a like they are on the Paramount lot when they’re on the Paramount wide interest. They are outside of MGM gates during that scene where he gives the old homeless friend of his $1 Yeah, um, and, uh, you do see those real life locations but what I thought was so interesting is they depict a scene that really did happen. Have on. Marion Davies moved her production company from MGM to Warner Brothers. And there was a she had a huge bungalow that they dismantled and took away on truck beds, yeah, over to from Culver City, which is where MGM was located over to Burbank or Warner Brothers is. And the funny thing is the scene where that happens. They are on the Warner Brothers lot. When it’s supposed to be MGM, they clearly added in the huge MGM sign and post but he, he runs up. And he’s right by stage 15, at wb, which when I was a tour guide there, I helped do audience load ends for Conan O’Brien, who was shooting at the stage at the time. And then the reverse shot so shows stage 20 and 25 with the backside of the backlot of New York Street, on the opposite side of 2525 is where they shot Big Bang Theory. And so that line of stages they’re showing is one as well. So she’s already where she’s supposedly tracking her sets. Yeah, she’s already checking the that bungalow over to so I don’t know why they couldn’t get on. They were showing the outside of the MGM lot earlier, which is now where Sony Pictures is located. But I guess they could either they couldn’t get on to the they couldn’t get inside the gate for whatever reason, or they. Or maybe they just didn’t think it had the look. They wanted for the scene because they have that’s that studio has been updated a little bit more in appearance than Paramount or Warner Brothers has been so

Andrew Sweatman 46:53
I don’t know, this is why we have rants on the podcast, because who else have just this deep cut knowledge of the lots they shut up? It’s fascinating. I

Rance Collins 47:01
love it once a tour guide always. I was a tour guide at warbirds for three and a half years. Have any questions about that lot? Please let

Unknown Speaker 47:11
me know.

Rance Collins 47:12
Right. I love it. I know it’s and that’s Yes. Well, I wanted to but in case you’re wondering they shot Citizen Kane if you want to know where they shot says they shot it between the two archeo lots, there are two archeo was spread out across a couple of lots. But there is one that it was right by Paramount. And that lot and Paramount eventually absorbed. That lot after arcade open under there was a brief period where it was held by Desi Lu. But then Desi Lu was bought by Paramount blah, blah, blah. Anyway, and then there was a lot right across the street from MGM. And Culver City, which is where another other parts it says and camber likely shot so interesting on Washington Boulevard. There you go. So RTO that’s the studio who was buying it. There’s also a really great movie. If you enjoyed this one. There’s a really great HBO film called archeo to 81. Is that right? JT one?

Andrew Sweatman 48:22
I think that’s right. Yeah, I haven’t watched it. Yeah. You mentioned it on this episode. So I remember that. Yeah. It’s

Rance Collins 48:29
it’s a great film. That has also has a great cast that talks about the making of Susan Cain with more of a slant towards stop forcing wells. Interesting. And double feature with this, then. Yeah, it tells a very different, it’s like it’s arguing the other side of this, basically. So that’s very interesting with Herman. I don’t remember her. We may go. It’s having a very large part of that. So. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 48:56

Andrew Sweatman 48:58
Well, I want to ask you to just kind of a side question just about David Fincher. I haven’t seen all of his work, but I think I have this compared to other David Fincher movies for you. And do you feel any commonalities between any of them? It seems kind of unique in a way, like his other filmography.

Rance Collins 49:18
I mean, like, I guess, Benjamin Button would be the closest

Andrew Sweatman 49:22
Yeah, think of that. Yeah.

Rance Collins 49:24
Yeah. Because that one’s The only other one I can think of that has that Hollywood old Hollywood feel to it? Yeah.

Because this doesn’t connect at all in my head Gone Girl, or fight club or? Yeah. Any any of those films. This feels it’s a totally different. It’s a totally different center. For sure. Yeah.

Andrew Sweatman 49:46
The only commonality I could think of was possibly with the social network because it is kind of a you know, behind the scenes of business kind of decisions and, and backstabbing and kind of intrigue and all of that. And there actually is Have a little bit of a parallel moment that I felt with in the social network. You remember there’s a kind of a famous scene where Andrew Garfield’s character runs in and smashes the laptop, Mark Zuckerberg. And there’s sort of a parallel here towards the end, I won’t spoil but something can get smashed because of a business dispute near the end of this bill to so I think that’s,

Rance Collins 50:22
that’s kind of funny. And I mean, it’s just real life people. Yeah. You know, this is, so this is his next. I think those are the only two biographical movies he’s done. Yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 50:36
I’m looking so hard for you. I think that’s true. Besides mine hunter with his Netflix show. I have not watched but it’s Oh, no,

Rance Collins 50:42
yes. I forgot. But I haven’t watched mine hunter either, but I’m kind of afraid, but I’ve heard it. But I probably enjoy it. I do enjoy true crime. So yeah, um, but uh, yeah, no, this is um, it’s interesting. I still think I think Gone Girl is my favorite venture. I think that I haven’t

Andrew Sweatman 51:02
seen amazingly I’ve seen the game and which I really liked the game back in the day. And I’ve seen I think everything else except for Zodiac. I haven’t seen Zodiac either.

Rance Collins 51:12
Oh, Zodiac. maybes, maybe Zodiac?

Andrew Sweatman 51:15
Oh, that’s true. I like Yeah, actually. Yeah,

Rance Collins 51:18
I did forget about that. But Zodiac is a true story. But it also it is. It’s like JFK in a way his version of JFK, I guess you could say because it presents a it presents a theory.

Andrew Sweatman 51:32
Yeah. Interesting

Rance Collins 51:33
to who the it makes a decision on who it thinks the Zodiac Killer is, which is not a known fact, because we do not know who the Zodiac was.

Andrew Sweatman 51:44
In a way this movie does that with about who wrote Citizen Kane. You know, it’s saying, well, we’re gonna set aside so maybe,

Rance Collins 51:51
but I wouldn’t I wouldn’t connect these. I mean, they the thing that’s different about that the thing that’s different about Gong girl and the social like those are those are still linear. Yeah, movies, you know, which I think is why maybe Benjamin Button feels like the Yeah, cuz it’s good. Does it does jump back and forth. And it goes, it does show segments of time in a life. So yeah, interesting. It relies very heavily it was shot on film, but it relies very heavily on digital effects. post production. Yes.

Unknown Speaker 52:28
I’m interested.

Rance Collins 52:31
But anyway,

Unknown Speaker 52:33
yeah, no, this

Rance Collins 52:34
is it’s a good I think I give it three and a half out of five.

Andrew Sweatman 52:37
All right, interesting. I probably go a little higher, but I’m not sure I always take forever to actually think of a star rating on letterbox and stuff. I put way too much pressure on myself. But

Rance Collins 52:49
I sometimes revised but i like i like to see I like to like put my gut out there. Yeah, before I think too much about it because I your initial reaction is still your Yeah, it’s important and I also want to do it before I get influenced by any anything anyone says. Yeah, yeah. So yes, um anywho what I think the the funny thing is like you know, I recently went through all of the James Bond movies Yeah. So whenever you do a no time die episode, let me know whenever that is

Andrew Sweatman 53:20
coming out this person. Yeah.

Rance Collins 53:25
But it’s funny if you would look through my my james bond rating, you would discover that I you can question my taste and everything I’ve said because I I gave Moonraker four out of five stars, but I gave man three and a half.

Andrew Sweatman 53:40
The opposite of most people on James Bond movies.

Rance Collins 53:44
Moonraker is a lot of fun. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Andrew Sweatman 53:49
That’s another huge thing. I haven’t. I haven’t seen that many James Bond movies. I’m not seeing Moonraker but I understand, man, it’s not the best. Generally.

Rance Collins 53:59
It’s in space. It’s there already there. It there’s he doesn’t have his usual God and he has a he has

Andrew Sweatman 54:06
a laser. Yeah. My my point of reference for Moonraker is in the video game for game there’s a Moonraker gun and it’s a laser gun.

Unknown Speaker 54:18
There you go.

Rance Collins 54:19
There is a hole in space laser gun battle in Moonraker.

Andrew Sweatman 54:24
Oh so likely that in the game, I thought you’re referencing the game. Sorry, the video game. No,

Rance Collins 54:28
this is in the movie. In a James Bond movie there is he is in space on a space station, giving having a laser gun fight. And if you can’t have a good time watching that

Unknown Speaker 54:39
something’s wrong,

Unknown Speaker 54:41
then you don’t deserve to watch movies. Here.

Unknown Speaker 54:49
Exactly. That’s,

Andrew Sweatman 54:51
oh, well, it sounds like we both recommend Mank so go watch make it a streaming now on Netflix. And thank you again so much for coming back. Yes, for real free to know time today, you’ll be my go to. So welcome back anytime.

Rance Collins 55:07
Thank you appreciate it.

Andrew Sweatman 55:12
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of arthouse garage. We’ve got a few years worth of episodes now and you can hear all of those in your podcast app of choice. If you want to support art house garage, you can leave a rating or review in your podcast app, or you can buy an arthouse garage t shirt or hat we have some cool merch at You can stay in the loop about arthouse garage and the things we’re covering by subscribing to our email newsletter that is at or you can always email me directly And of course follow on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and letterbox just search at art house garage and all those places or find links in the show notes. And that will do it for this episode. Thank you again so much for listening. And until next time, keep it snob free

Transcribed by

Andrew Sweatman

Andrew Sweatman

Andrew is a writer, podcaster, and film lover who wants to help people think critically about movies. He lives in central Arkansas with his wife Allison and two children, Rosie & Beau. Andrew is the Senior Editor at Arthouse Garage and a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA). Find him at and on Twitter and Instagram: @ArthouseGarage.

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