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NOT OT: The 2020 Best Picture Oscar Front Runner...is on TV Right Now


I subscribe to various streaming services.

I opened the "Hulu" app the other night on my TV and there it was: "Nomadland" -- "EXCLUSIVE" on Hulu right now. That is to say, on TV right now.

This is the front-runner for the 2020 Best Picture Oscar, which is pretty funny since 2020 is almost two months ago. But the Academy extended the deadline for nominated pictures into late February(as I write this, it IS February)

It looks like a 2021 televised ceremony for 2020 movies is a "go" in April on American broadcast TV. As I've noted before, it seems that the Motion Picture Academy earns $75 million for the broadcast -- a big chunk of its operating budget -- so SOMETHING has to be put on the air.

I'll tell you how disconnected I am. I know that the Golden Globes for 2020 are also being held -- or may HAVE been held on TV already. I literally don't know and don't care if that broadcast has been done already. (The Golden Globes splits between movies and TV ..so TV shows can appropriately be honored there.)

Poor Steven Spielberg. Last year, BEFORE COVID-19 hit the scene, he adamantly came out AGAINST Netflix movies qualifying for Oscars, he didn't care if they got a few short theatrical showings in LA and NYC - "they are on TV; they should be awarded Emmies, not Oscars."

Then came COVID-19, and most theaters were closed and few good movies were released to what theaters remained -- and Spielberg's words no longer mattered. At least for 2020. Pretty much ALL of the 2020 Oscar nominees will have been seen almost EXCLUSIVELY on TV. The Trial of the Chicago 7(produced by Spielberg so -- what's his problem again?) Mank. Some other stuff.

But mainly...Nomadland. Its got that Oscar-credibility star, Frances McDormand, which is good. And personally, I find the subject matter interesting -- always a key thing for a great movie. (Modern day American nomads roaming the highways of the US in vans and mobile homes..."homeless on wheels, off the grid.")

Meanwhile: Martin Scorsese, who already took on Marvel movies as "not movies" a couple of years ago, has recently weighed in against streaming -- "movies have now become content." He's right, but The Irishman was a Netflix flick and his Leo/DeNiro Native American murders movie(yet unfilmed) will debut on Apple. I suppose the movie DIRECTOR in Marty is in the position of "going along to get along"(and to get the big budgets he needs) but the movie FAN in Marty knows this is wrong, that movies for their first hundred years were made to be seen in theater on the BIG screen.

Elsewhere I post about the late film critic Richard Corliss' memories of seeing Psycho "at the Avalon Theater on the South Jersey shore" in 1960 and you can tell that he carried around the memory of the theater where he saw Psycho as much as the memory of Psycho itself. That is a part of the movie-going experience that is just going right down the tubes in the age of "cable and streaming."

One of my greatest memories of seeing Psycho (of the many times I've seen Psycho) was to see it at a restored old Palace Theater in a downtown area. My research revealed that Psycho had played at that very same theater on first release in 1960 -- and I was now seeing Psycho at the same theater 0-- this was around 1994. Whereas most all of the OTHER palace theaters had long been torn down, with multiplexes everywhere -- THIS theater had been restored and conserved and THIS theater conjured up 1960 and a "night at the movies" in a cavernous theater with plush red curtains covering the movie screen, a "loge" and a balcony.

The downside: in 1994, this old theater was musty and dusty and smelled of decades of rancid buttered popcorn. But I could ignore all that and imagine what it would have been like to see Psycho(such a "small" movie) in such a gigantic , Palace-like environment. Hey, it was so plush they piped the movie soundtrack into the Men's Room -- I "took a bathroom break and could hear Sheriff Chambers asking "Who's that woman buried in Greenlawn Cemetary?" echoing among the stalls.

By the way, it looks like DVDs are going away too. And that is scary. The streaming services take movies away as much as they program them. Eventually will they control content to the point that you can't KEEP your favorite movies anymore ("YOu want to see Psycho again? Pony up 4 bucks on HBO Max.) I start to worry as some of my DVDs warp and don't play so good.

Anyway, Spielberg's right and Scorsese's right: first-run movies debuting on Netflix and Hulu and qualifying for Oscar nominations and wins...it just ain't right. Its TV. Its "content." Hell, its software. But for 2020 behind us..its the only way out. This WILL be the "asterisk year" for Oscar winners.

Of course, in recent years, a lot of the Oscar winning films were not being wildly seen , anyway. That prepared us for this.

CONT



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Meanwhile, I note that Spielberg's remake of "West Side Story" was bumped from Xmas 2020 to Xmas 2021. I'm sure he is hoping that big audiences will be able to see this movie in big theaters. Maybe, maybe not. But this: Now Spieberg's West Side Story will be released a dead-on 60 years after the 1961 original which, I believe, won 11 Oscars.

Not this time.

PS. Can you imagine Psycho being only available the first time on STREAMING? No full house audiences screaming away after waiting in long lines and "not allowed in the theater after the movie begins."

Unimaginable!

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@ecarle. So, did you like Nomadland? The director, Chloe Zhao's previous film The Rider was quite good ('small' but nicely observed about Native Americans working as modern cowboys & rodeo riders - their macho-ness, their horrifying injuries, their estrangement from America as a whole and as an idea, and so on). I think she got a Marvel film ("The Eternals") directing job out of The Rider's minor success and substantial acclaim but Covid has delayed that film's release so much that her susequent ('one for me') 'small' movie has ended up coming out first...albeit trailing clouds of Oscar buzz thanks to McDormand's presence.

As for the broader question of Covid's impact on movie exhibition... I'm afraid that this is starting to look like a truly shocking discontinuity and a flat out purging from the exhibition arena of all but the most deep-pocketed actors. Lots of independent movie houses in New Zealand that had somehow managed to hang on over the last few decades with the right mixture of blockbusters and smaller films are now closing: the stream of blockbusters that bring in young audiences has dried up for over a year now and the older audiences who were regulars at smaller films have been very slow to come back presumably because even in NZ which has the pandemic well under control habits have changed and it's just been safest for older people to stay home. Indeed lots of older people who'd never before Zoomed and Streamed a lot have *had* to figure all that stuff during the pandemic. And now that investment of energy in mastering new tech has led to real habit change: now it's much more reasonable to stream stuff than to go out.

It's sad when movie screens that have been running for fifty+ years and that made it through the advent of tv, video, dvds, the internet are finally being undone by a mixture of virus-driven temporary and permanent behavioral changes.

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@ecarle. So, did you like Nomadland?

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I haven't seen it yet. It just appeared(to me, at least) a couple of days ago and I was intrigued , given its "frontrunner status."

I might add that Hulu had -- and may still have -- "Parasite" as its exclusive property not too long after than movie came out. I saw Parasite at a theater that was pretty full, not too long before COVID hit, so it was intriguing to see it readily available on streaming so soon thereafter(COVID may have pushed it up.) So...Hulu is the "indie and foreign Oscar channel?" I dunno. But I will try to watch Nomadland soon.


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What I DID watch in the last week, over on HBO Max, was the second "Warner Brothers straight to streaming same day theater release after Wonder Woman 1984. This was "The Little Things," a serial killer mystery drama that looks like Se7en , with touches of Zodiac(the opening scene) and even the feeling of Training Day -- star Denzel Washington here cruises the same streets of Los Angeles where he was such a great cop villain 20 years ago.

And for all of that...The Little Things is a poor movie, shockingly so and even accounting for Denzel's willingness to do "modern day programmers" too often.

So Warners is "two for two" in releasing sub-par movies to HBO Max that somehow devalue the product -- Wonder Woman in one case; Denzel in the second. What is going on here? Its almost like Warners knew well before COVID hit that its 2020 and 2021 slate of movies were not REAL movies. With what's left (including Suicide Squad and Matrix sequels, and "Kong vs. Godzilla"(or is it the other way around), one wonders when one of these HBO Max movies will feel like "the real deal." An irony: the Sopranos prequel(Saints of Newark) was bound for movie screens and now will premiere back on HBO ,where its parent show always was. (Well, in a few theaters, too.)

Note in passing: Two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington is joined in "The Little Things" by recent Best Actor winner Rami Malik (he won for the Queen movie) and some-time ago Oscar winner Jared Leto. Malik plays a sympathetic cop; Leto plays a serial killer(or maybe not.) Malik in particular is in that place that some forbears have been: his Oscar win makes him kinda sorta "a star" ...but I suspect not for very long. See: F. Murray Abraham and Adrien Brody. It might not last. But at least he has that Oscar.

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The (Nomadland) director, Chloe Zhao's previous film The Rider was quite good ('small' but nicely observed about Native Americans working as modern cowboys & rodeo riders - their macho-ness, their horrifying injuries, their estrangement from America as a whole and as an idea, and so on). I think she got a Marvel film ("The Eternals") directing job out of The Rider's minor success and substantial acclaim but Covid has delayed that film's release so much that her susequent ('one for me') 'small' movie has ended up coming out first.

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Nomadland coming out ahead of The Rider is mimicked with Rami Malik in "The Little Things" coming out BEFORE the movie he made before it -- playing the villain in the new James Bond movie("No Time to Die" I think) which has been delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed.

I've read that re-shoots are now necessary on the Bond movie to change the "gadgets" because the gadgets need to be "state of the art and of this moment." I'm reminded that movies often NEED to be released when they are still on timely topics, COVID is knocking various movies well past their "relevance date."

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..albeit trailing clouds of Oscar buzz thanks to McDormand's presence.

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McDormand has been a "class act" in movies ever since her Fargo win(and she remains married to a Coen brother all these decades later.) Its funny, her Fargo win and her "Three Billboards" win are decades apart, but they are of a piece, merging together over the decades to maintain the "McDormand reputation." And here comes Nomadland to keep that going.

I was watching the 2003 "geezer rom com" "Something's Gotta Give" the other night. Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson are the romantic leads, with Keanu Reeves in there as a romantic rival to Jack for Diane -- but there's Frances McDormand(in only a couple of scenes; its almost a cameo) as Keaton's sister and voila....suddenly this very lightweight movie is simply overcome with gravitas performers. Begs the question: why did McDormand take this weightless "sidekick" role? The money, I suppose...and to work with Jack and Diane(and Keanu.)

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As for the broader question of Covid's impact on movie exhibition... I'm afraid that this is starting to look like a truly shocking discontinuity and a flat out purging from the exhibition arena of all but the most deep-pocketed actors.

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I fear that the "COVID closes movie theaters" topic will soon join other movie topics as a "hot issue done to death"(and I mean by me.)

I was watching some TV show in the past year or two where an annoying young movie nerd character was harping on and on about how "all the movies are now is sequels and remakes" and though this IS a very cogent point(SEE: the Warner Brothers/HBO Max 2021 slate), now it is simply accepted: "this is the current Hollywood business model, THEY know that they make sequels and remakes. Shut up."

Added to that bromide is the one I take up from time to time: how the Oscar movies in recent years have been movies that not many people actually SEE; movies that simply can't join The Sound of Music and The Godfather as Oscar worthy AND hits. Well: Hollywood knows that too. They make Oscar-bait to make Oscar-bait(as the late Robert Osborne of TCM said: "The Oscars are great. Otherwise, Hollywood wouldn't try to make Oscar movies."

But THAT bromide got "nuanced" a couple of years ago -- the year of "Roma" on Netflix, perhaps? -- "Oscar movies are being released to TV on streaming at the same time as to theaters." Spielberg weighed in on that last year -- THOSE movies, he rather desperately huffed, should NOT be eligible for Oscars. (Begged the question: so movies that ONLY play in theaters can be nominated?)

And now comes the COVID-driven "possible nail in the coffin" to movie theaters mattering at all. Thanks to COVID, streaming now has "the sequels and remakes" (HBO Max) AND the Oscar bait(Hulu with Nomadland) and...movie theaters just may not be that necessary anymore.

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It's sad when movie screens that have been running for fifty+ years and that made it through the advent of tv, video, dvds, the internet are finally being undone by a mixture of virus-driven temporary and permanent behavioral changes.

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Just like its sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son. Hah. On topic.

"But seriously folks." This is sad, and it has the risk of being permanent.

Movie studios are being cast as the villains this way: for decades, studios needed movie theaters to exhibit their product. If the public accepts the product going "straight to streaming," it reduces cost-sharing to the studios (though from what I've seen, the streaming services are being pressed to deliver the kind of dollars to the studios and stars that movie theaters can.)

This was already happening long before COVID hit. The issue was: how long a window must there be BETWEEN movie theater exhibition and cable or streaming? But now, we are looking at "theaters and streaming, same day"(HBO Max) and maybe eventually "ONLY streaming, same day."

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Whether people are reading it or not, I've elected to post for some time about my "personal history of the movies" because from this late-in-life vantage point, its rather fascinating to contemplate all the changes that have happened.

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For instance, the long two-hour lines in which I waited to see The Godfather and The Exorcist (and others waited in for Star Wars) are clearly a thing of the past. Movies are released to thousands of screens -- 10 screens in one mulit-plex -- and everybody can get in, the first week. (I waited for The Godfather and The Exorcist WEEKS into their runs.)

And the "full house screaming" that I heard when I saw Wait Until Dark, Jaws, and Psycho in revival? Seems to be gone, too. "We are a different species now" at horror movies, writes David Thomson. And I would agree. Its harder to make us scream(not so hard to make us jump, that's a different deal.)

Meanwhile: North by Northwest didn't get to broadcast TV (CBS) for 8 years after its 1959 release(it debuted in 1967); save one 1966 re-release, that movie had to "live on in memory" for YEARS without being available to see. Now a theatrical movie can be viewed on TV within months, weeks, days...the SAME DAY.

Some of what is being lost -- actually a LOT of what is being lost -- is that fun thing called "hullaballoo" -- promotion. I fell more prey to it in my youth, but studios sure used to know how to get you excited when a "big one" was coming. "The Birds is Coming!" the ads famously said. But they also said "PSYCHO is coming!"(with the slashed letters, I found that in a 1960 newspaper on microfiche.)

And I recall the print ad promotions for The Godfather and The Exorcist being very "mysterious." All you saw was the logo for the movie(the "puppet strings" for The Godfather; The man at the house with the light in the window for The Exorcist) and...you were left wondering what the movie was REALLY going to be like.

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I suppose that there is still "hullabaloo" for modern movies. Its done on the internet, with sights for youth like "Aint It Cool News" and "Dark Horizons" and "Coming Soon" -- all of which are rather dead now because they got no exciting new movies to promote(COVID again.) The internet is also where new trailers are debuted and suddenly everybody can get excited at once -- and -- you don't have to go to the movie theater to see the trailer.

Flash memory: in 1972 when Frenzy came out, it had TV ads (one where Hitchcock bought neckties from Gavin Elster himself, Tom Helmore!) but it also had RADIO ads, between rock songs like "Tumbling Dice" and "Take It Easy". I recall hearing one while I was in a friend's VW bug , we were getting gas , I said "Wait a minute, that's Alfred Hitchcock talking!" -- the nostalgia to the "lost" Hitchcock of his 60's TV stardom and Psycho was palpable. Hitchcock said something pithy about "the Necktie Killer" and the radio spot ended with that powerful yell of Brenda Blaney's "My God! The tie!" and MAN , did I want to see that movie.

That's when AM radio was popular in cars. Just a little history for ya. "AM radio rock channel Hitchcock hullaballoo."

Anyway, the key questions are this: when COVID is finally and conclusively deemed "safe" and movie theaters are allowed to open freely -- (a) will the studios release all their "big ones" to the theaters and (2) will people fill the houses again?

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@ecarle...did you like Nomadland?

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I did. I gave it a look on Hulu. I'm waiting to see just what kind of "Oscar season" we will turn out to have had for 2020 (a sad one, for sure), and I guess this is a forerunner for Best Picture, and McDormand has great Best Actress chances(that would be three, which is Meryl Streep territory.)

There is a tradition in American film called "the road movie," and Nomadland is well within it. About Schmidt is on point here because the lead is widowed(there, a man played by Jack Nicholson; here a woman played by Frances McDormand), but the difference indeed is that Jack was well off and travelling in a fairly luxurious motorhome; Frances is borderline destitute and travelling in a pretty beat up van. Still, Nomadland proves you can have roughly the same experience with far less money.

Other road movies include:

Easy Rider
Vanishing Point
Scarecrow(with Gene Hackman and Al Pacino)
Five Easy Pieces
Two Lane Blacktop(with James Taylor)
Slither(with James Caan)
Sideways(though they pretty much stay in one area)
Lost in Translation

and....Psycho! Yep, the Janet Leigh part is rather a "studio version" of a road movie, but she certainly drives a long way and encounters some characters en route.

Some have compared this to..."Wild." I saw Wild but I can't recall -- doesn't the lead character there mainly HIKE away from civilization?

Many of those movies "up top" shared with Nomadland the use of real people and documentary like footage. I'd say to the extent that Nomadland goes to a different place, it is in the idea that this road trip is...forever. The lead character isn't "going home" when the trip is over -- the van IS home. As McDormand tells someone: "I'm not homeless...I'm just houseless."

Although that's not necessarily the way it turns out. No need for SPOILERS here.

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For what it is worth, I have a couple of criticisms of "Nomadland":

ONE: The "documentary" part -- as real Nomads tell their stories and we learn about exactly how this existence operates....is mixed in with a "fictional drama" for Frances to emote in, along with that very respectable and gentle actor David Strathairn(the only other recognizable "pro" in the cast). The documentary part is exemplary, but the fictional drama part is a bit too predictable and pat -- borderline trite -- and beneath the quality of the drama in Frances' other Oscar winners(Fargo and Three Billboards.) I get why, I think: "Nomadland" shouldn't be expected to support a densely plotted "movie story" -- the documentary part is meant to dominate.

TWO: Frances is very good in this, truly the "star" who makes the tale navigable, but in scenes in which she interacts with the "real poor people" with empathy and compassion, I couldn't help thinking "This woman has been married to a Coen Brother for decades; they have to be worth upwards of 50 million." It is the actor's craft to portray all classes of life, and Frances played middle to working class in Fargo and Three Billboards -- but HERE, sharing scenes with real people who aren't doing so well, well, it felt a little bit condescending to watch. And yet: how could Frances avoid this? She here uses her Hollywood power to illuminate the struggles of people well below her wealth, and that's a good thing.

Those two elements above held me back a bit from "going" with Nomadland, but overall, it is a moving and unique experience, and of course it centers one on the following idea: "Could I do this?"

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Cut to the chase: the movie asks "could I live in a van all the time?" and reminds us that crucial issues on a daily basis are: (1) Going to the bathroom(both ways) and (2) Getting a shower or bath.

The truth of the matter is -- you don't really need to shower or bathe every day. The movie suggests that RV parks and campgrounds have shower facilities.

As for matters of the restroom -- you're in the great outdoors, but the story focusses on the need to "take care of your own s'--t"(one character literally teaches the others HOW, using this very line) and the emphasis is on using a bucket and tending to disposal of the contents. Our Best Actress nominee indeed enacts such a scene. I don't remember Kate Hepburn doing that.

My take: if you had to take care of your own s--t on a daily basis, you would get used to it, and closer to your "essence." I guess.

There's a very good scene in which Frances -- as part of the temporary, short-term, itijerant work she seeks on the road -- works in a giant Amazon packing and mailing facility, and you are reminded how much of the American population depends on this level of dull, rote work for a living. (Frances' houselessness begins when the gypsum plant that her late husband and she worked in for years closed and closed the company town of Empire, Nevada with it.)

What's good about the Amazon scene(filmed with their permission and thus "positive" about the company) is that we are reminded that human beings will seek work and work...if there IS work. But alas, that job ends(it was Xmas seasonal; Amazon paid for Frances' van parking for that time) and Frances must find another....in another town, for there is no more work here.



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And eventually comes something I was waiting for: the van she drives for hundreds of miles ...breaks down. And money becomes a serious issue.

Nomadland invariably busies itself on how to survive in this "utopia"....showers? defecation? food? freezing temperatures? Money(an RV park quotes Frances a monthly rental of $375...you can't live ENTIRELY off the land.)

Social security benefits enter in to the story and we realize that a lot of these nomads are...older people, done with earning a big living and somehow not able to retire. (The nomad population that we see is rather white, as I recall, not sure what to make of that.)

But occasionally a "shock on the road" appears: young families with young children among the nomads. One lone teenage boy, all by himself. One gets the feeling that you shouldn't be a nomad when you are too young...it is a killing lifestyle better for finishing out one's life.

The "socio-political" aspects of Nomadland(in which everybody is pretty nice to everybody else; I liked that) yield to the cinematic poetry of vistas of American desert and mountains(and eventually redwood trees and coast)...it is a movie of stark beauty with a moving musical score..THAT's not documentary style. This is also a major plus of the movie.

Funny bit: in a near-empty, depressed and depressing desert town..Frances stands by a battered movie marquee: The Avengers. One realizes that the billion-dollar MCU sometimes visits very poor and desolate pockets of America.

Food for thought: This was filmed before COVID. One figures that these nomads would survive COVID well. They are outdoors and distanced most of the time.

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And I would like to single out David Straitharn. He's been around a long time, and in so many roles, he offers up a gentle, elegant dignity(he has a tremulous, sad voice.)

In "A League of the Their Own," the one about the female baseball team in WWII forties, Straitharn backed up Tom Hanks(in the flamboyant male role) as the other male lead: the quiet, self-effacing and respectful business manager for the team. In "LA Confidential," Straitharn played a very rich LA transportation mogul who ran classy prostitutes on the side -- but you LIKED him; when rough Russell Crowe interrogated him you felt SORRY for him.

On The Sopranos, Straitharn played a deceptively courtly man -- the school administrator who took the risk of bedding Mafia wife Carmela. She was separated from Tony at the time, but you still feared for the gentle Straitharn - until he insulted Carmella on very snobbish grounds and broke up with her. You always felt this poor deluded intellectual was on thin ice once he broke up with the Mob Boss wife. It was left hanging...would Carmela ever tell?

And a "personal favorite" in the legal thriller "The Firm," Straitharn played Tom Cruise's older brother -- gentle as usual , but in prison. One of Tom's "caper goals" is to get his brother out of prison, and you are rooting for that, all the way. Straitharn's "bust out" is suspenseful, and the prize he gets at the end(cute as a bug Holly Hunter) is worth a very big smile for both of them.

I mention all these David Strathairn roles because, as the other "name" in Nomadland, he comes trailing them into THIS story and...well...he keeps it fictional. in a good way.

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Bottom line: I can see this winning Best Picture and I can see Frances McDormand joining Ms. Streep with three trophies. It is a good -- but not great -- movie, but a lot of Best Pictures recently have been that way.

And if it does win...I'm afraid its gonna require an asterisk.

PS. TCM has moved its 30 Days of Oscar promotion to April but again, all those great big classic Oscar winners on display continue to embarrass the rather small and little-scene crop of Oscar winner from the past decade.

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The "documentary" part -- as real Nomads tell their stories and we learn about exactly how this existence operates....is mixed in with a "fictional drama" for Frances to emote in, along with that very respectable and gentle actor David Strathairn(the only other recognizable "pro" in the cast). The documentary part is exemplary, but the fictional drama part is a bit too predictable and pat -- borderline trite
The documentary part left me a bit cold if only because our anchor throughout the movie, Fern (McDormand) is such a taciturn and peripatetic figure. She barely talks. She listens to others, but they don't have anything especially interesting to say or behave in any especially interesting let alone cinematic ways. Nobody's a mad Trumper or conspiracist or racist and no one's armed to the teeth - real life it seems to me would be more volatile and cursedly interesting than what we see represented in the documentary sections of Nomadland. I was bored by at least the first hour and when the fiction bit hit I was like 'Halleluljah!' with Fern's visit to her sister a turning point: some (mild!) conflict at last and finally Fern can change and a story starts to be told. Yay!!! But it's too late and suddenly there's only 20 minutes to go and things just peter out. I dare say that the film would have been improved a lot for me if Fern took the dog she's offered at one point or, shoot, (major script rewrite!) maybe her dead husband had a child from a previous relationship she never knew about; they gang up, fall out over drug and white nationalist problems, kid ends up dying frozen in a ditch. Good times at the movies! But it would *be* a movie.).

In sum, I don't think that Nomadland succeeds in either its documentary or fiction aspects. I think it's significantly less accomplished than Chloe Zhao's previous, small, realistic film about gritty life on the high plains, The Rider. Grump, grump, grump.

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Thinking some more about why Nomadland did not move me: I think it's that it's really only one character deep. We never really connect with anyone but Fern. But then she's mostly a spectator for at least the first hour of the movie so we only in fact get half a characterization (and any change for her, such as it is, comes in a rush at the end). That's just too thin I'm afraid and no vague topicality and western landscape photography can really make up for that (Nomadland's more documentary side would have to be utterly spectacular for that to happen which it isn't close to being in my view). The best of the Oscar nominees I've seen - Minari & Trial of the Chicago 7 - aren't the most exciting pictures ever made, but there's a lot to be said for the basic virtues they exemplify including being at least 4 or 5 characters deep.

Ultimately, the truth so far for me about the films of 2020 is that *nothing* is genuinely great. Rather, I've seen a lot of movies (among them Minari and Nomadland and Another Round recently) that just are a notch or two down in quality from the best of recent years, they're 8/10 at best. They're lucky they'e not out in the same year as Parasite or Portrait of a Woman on Fire or The Favourite or The Death of Stalin. And so on.

There are still a few (sometimes 2019 but) released in 2020 films that I haven't seen yet that sound promising and that may well be destined to "take" the year regardless of what the Oscars have to say about anything: Martin Eden, Bacurau, Little Joe, First Cow, Small Axe (a series of films for streaming from 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen). Needless to say, all these possible saviors of the year have essentially zero profile in the world as I write this note. How we got from (when I was a kid) having some of the best movies of the year be must-see huge hits (e.g., Godfather, The Sting , Chinatown, Jaws, Network, Annie Hall, Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus) to this sorry state of affairs is another question.

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Somewhat related to the question of how we got from, say, the 1975 Oscars (for 1974 films) to current Oscars dominated by films almost nobody has seen and for the most part very few people would want to see.... Criterion has just released their long-promised Blu-ray of The Parallax View (1974). It looks gorgeous and, as expected, comes packed with extras:
http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film9/blu-ray_review_133/the_parallax_view_blu-ray.htm

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How we got from (when I was a kid) having some of the best movies of the year be must-see huge hits (e.g., Godfather, The Sting , Chinatown, Jaws, Network, Annie Hall, Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus) to this sorry state of affairs is another question.

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It is...one realizes as a survivor to this particular age (and gratefully so)...the history of the world.

We THOUGHT that "the movies" would continue on in that way , and it took decades to fall apart...but they are gone.

I was reading something that rather amused me the other day. Winston Churchill, in the 50's,, cautioning about the dangers of the hydrogen bomb. He noted that while the atomic bomb could be "manageable," the hydrogen bomb could not. And he basically said, "Doesn't matter to my generation, we are old and about to die off anyway...its up to the next generation to see if they can survive."

Which they did. And that's sort of how I feel about the movies now. I GOT my great life with movies....its up to the next generation to determine what they want to see from here on out. (I read a lot of the MCU, DCU debate and I am comfortable that that IS what this century is about so far...it DOES have meaning in a great many young lives. So be it.)

In certain ways for me, 2021 has already proved to be worse than 2020...more barren, more restrictive of my physical movement.

And I find myself staring -- open mouthed -- at the true paucity of content that is being given the "Oscar imprimatur" for a year in which Oscar doesn't matter at all.

Mank. Mank. MANK! Utterly worthless. A movie about a man who lies in bed doing nothing(writing a little bit), while pretty women take notes and humor him. A cast of little to no oomph (Arliss Howard has been a nobody for several decades now); some guy playing Orson Welles without BEING Orson Welles.

I had to laugh though...somewhere near the very end, I got to hear my favorite real-life Mank line, when he throws up at Hearst's castle: "Don't worry...the white wine came up with the fish."


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Somewhat related to the question of how we got from, say, the 1975 Oscars (for 1974 films) to current Oscars dominated by films almost nobody has seen and for the most part very few people would want to see.... Criterion has just released their long-promised Blu-ray of The Parallax View (1974). It looks gorgeous and, as expected, comes packed with extras:
http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film9/blu-ray_review_133/the_parallax_view_blu-ray.htm

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The Parallax View is certainly one of those key 1974 downers . Funny: Warren Beatty was already in his "I'm not really a movie star phase," and had been out of movies for three years when he brought this out in the summer of 1974 and -- to his anger -- found that his "pal" Nicholson's Chinatown was THE big downer classic of the summer, and that Beatty's movie simply didn't matter. Paramount gave Warren the bum's rush and put all of its promotion into Chinatown.

Truth be told, The Parallax View is a "thriller" with no thrills. Beatty discovers a conspiracy. Anybody who can help him prove it...dies. And at the end...Beatty dies. (SPOILER alert.) And is blamed for the "newest assassination."

This was a weightless movie in 1974...Alan Pakula had no real thriller chops. A "bomb at the airport" sequence was shot like a TV episode, not like a movie.

The ONE good thing in Parallax -- not directed by the somnamulent Pakula -- was a "training film" shown to Beatty to brainwash him into becoming an assassin. Quite a piece of film, with music to match.

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I would like to note that, in 1974 and 1975, there was an effort afoot to tie all these bleak political thrillers into a Hitchcock source: North by Northwest. One by one, in studio promotional materials, we were told that The Conversation and The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor and Marathon Man all had Hitchcock's own paranoid thriller as their root source. The Conversation actually played WITH North by Northwest at a flagship LA theater.

But....no. What we know now is that when he made NXNW, Hitchcock's goal was to stage a chase on Mount Rushmore. THAT's the fantasy; that's the legend and the classic....the 1974 elements(early) are all in service of "The Wizard of Oz" for adults." As with Psycho, Hitchcock only had one North by Northwest in him, and it has stood for 60 years even as the 1974 paranoid thrillers have faded.

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Mank. Mank. MANK! Utterly worthless. A movie about a man who lies in bed doing nothing(writing a little bit), while pretty women take notes and humor him. A cast of little to no oomph (Arliss Howard has been a nobody for several decades now); some guy playing Orson Welles without BEING Orson Welles.

I had to laugh though...somewhere near the very end, I got to hear my favorite real-life Mank line, when he throws up at Hearst's castle: "Don't worry...the white wine came up with the fish."

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But seriously, folks...I was pretty shocked.

Evidently David Fincher hasn't made a major film since Gone Girl and to have put himself in service of THIS(even if his late father wrote it), feels as if he elected to fritter away a great reputation.

Oh, it got plenty of Oscar noms....but these are WORTHLESS Oscar noms. (The Golden Globes and Emmies and Grammies have all tanked; Oscar shall not do much better.)

One wonders: exactly WHY can't somebody yet make a movie about the making of a movie that is exciting as the movie itself? (Hitchcock, this.)

I have read that a Paramount movie will go into production about the making of The Godfather....maybe THAT one?

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But seriously, folks...I was pretty shocked.

Me too! My original very negative report was here:
https://moviechat.org/tt0054215/Psycho/5fcbdaa002e4e20abe628d0f/In-the-US-Turner-Classic-Movies-Shows-Bernard-Herrmann-Movies-in-December?reply=5fce52355291e204b096125e

I stand by my original judgment that Sorkin's pretty basic Trial of the Chicago 7 is the better Netflix Oscar contender this year with a better script and better casting and performances, etc.. and that non-contending-because-it's-TV The Crown Season 4 (released on Netflix at around the same time) was *much* better across the board.

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One wonders: exactly WHY can't somebody yet make a movie about the making of a movie that is exciting as the movie itself?
The thing is that there have been a *bunch* of superior or better movies abut the making of movies, often featuring specific fictional movies being produced: just off the top of my head, Singin' In The Rain, The Bad and The Beautiful, Contempt, Day for Night, Day of The Locust, The Stuntman, Irma Vep, CQ, even The Other Side of the Wind quite recently. It's the step to making a very good, pretty historically faithful film about the making of a specific landmark film that's proved difficult. I think the making of Mary Poppins one (quite unfaithful as it happens!), Saving Mr Banks is easily the best effort along these lines. Shadow of the Vampire about Murnau (played by Malkovich) making Nosferatu (1922) was also pretty good but *very* historically unfaithful: the central joke is that Murnau's actor for the Dracula-ish Count Orlok, Max Shreck (played by Willem Dafoe) was an actual vampire. Some Jewish groups protested that this bit of the film's premise was anti-Semitic... but I confess that I thought Dafoe was a riot.

Anyhow, the relatively historically faithful 'making of a classic movie' movie is a tough nut to crack. It's hard (sometimes impossible) to get all the rights you need and it's hard to get all the budget you need for the very large cast coprising all the actors within the inner movie + all the movie-makers and all the obstable-people to the movie's making and so on. Not to mention all the complex locations and set-recreations you need. Finally, it just might be that a relatively historically faithful making of a movie isn't that cinematic. It can make a great book or magazine article or dvd extra documentary and still not scream out 'Make a movie of this'.

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The making of the Godfather script by one Andrew Farotte, who's never done much, has been around for 5+ years on the Hollywood Black List. I looked at it a few years ago and it had a cast of several hundreds - seemed super-expensive. I also remember that it had George Lucas as a character and there were a bunch of jokes and insinuations about him getting ideas for Star Wars from shooting the breeze with Coppola about the Godfather in early stages. It had a *ton* of bad language from Coppola and Evans and Peter Bart, all manner of actress-themed colorful hyperbole & obscenity in fact. That was amusing but guaranteed an R.

Anyhow, Barry Levinson is going to direct w/ Jake Gyllenhall as Evans and Oscar Isaacs as Coppola. It could be good but the degree of difficulty is enormous and the chances of losing vast sums of money are real.

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Anyhow, Barry Levinson is going to direct w/ Jake Gyllenhall as Evans and Oscar Isaacs as Coppola. It could be good but the degree of difficulty is enormous and the chances of losing vast sums of money are real.

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Well...I'm interested.

A key seems to be that -- as opposed the the Hitchcock Psycho movie -- they CAN use material affiliated with The Godfather itself.

I "lived" through The Godfather and I will note (again) that the book was a pure "sex fest" that had a lot of teenage tongues wagging....the fact that a movie of gravitas and smarts emerged from THAT book remains a surprise achievement.

And this: Brando really proved himself in this. One reason I don't have much regard for Apocalypse Now out there in 1979 is that Brando showed up for THAT one overweight, unprepared, bored...he gave none of his stardom to Coppola there.

But something 'clicked" for Brando as The Godfather -- he truly gave a performance. He cared. It mattered(I'd say things were not all that removed from how Hitchcock the same year showed up with "game" in Frenzy.)

James Caan and Robert Duvall had worked with Coppola before, and just ended up lucky with their roles here. (Caan's stardom never REALLY locked in after The Godfather.)

Which left Pacino -- the biggest gamble of them all. Michael Corleone could have been Warren Beatty or Ryan O'Neal or Jack Nicholson or (perhaps most in play) Dustin Hoffman. But Coppola went for the Italian-American guy.

I do suppose that this new movie will have trouble "matching" Brando, Pacino, Caan, Duvall...Cazalle.

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One wonders: exactly WHY can't somebody yet make a movie about the making of a movie that is exciting as the movie itself?

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The thing is that there have been a *bunch* of superior or better movies abut the making of movies, often featuring specific fictional movies being produced: just off the top of my head, Singin' In The Rain, The Bad and The Beautiful, Contempt, Day for Night, Day of The Locust, The Stuntman, Irma Vep, CQ, even The Other Side of the Wind quite recently.

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Ah...the irony....all about movies that WERE NOT real.

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It's the step to making a very good, pretty historically faithful film about the making of a specific landmark film that's proved difficult. I think the making of Mary Poppins one (quite unfaithful as it happens!),

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Indeed...perhaps "faithful to the reality" is less important than "faithful to the idea of the creative process."

The movie barely touched on it, but I was always moved that Disney got Mary Poppins out in triumph(and an Oscar for Julie Andrews) in 1964...and then died, rather quickly from cancer, in 1966. It was as if he knew he had a particular legacy to protect, right at the end.

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Saving Mr Banks is easily the best effort along these lines. Shadow of the Vampire about Murnau (played by Malkovich) making Nosferatu (1922) was also pretty good but *very* historically unfaithful: the central joke is that Murnau's actor for the Dracula-ish Count Orlok, Max Shreck (played by Willem Dafoe) was an actual vampire. Some Jewish groups protested that this bit of the film's premise was anti-Semitic... but I confess that I thought Dafoe was a riot.

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I'll have to go looking for Shadow of the Vampire.

I guess with The Godfather as a "next source," movies about The Exorcist and perhaps Jaws would be of interest. Hard to see how a Star Wars movie could be made, though.

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I'll have to go looking for Shadow of the Vampire.
Be warned that SotV (2000) isn't a great film by any means (some of its pacing and technical editing and lighting decisions are questionable for example) but it is quite fun with some fun performances and does feel like a real movie in a lot of ways with a big (if somewhat impertinent) statement it's trying to make. [Irma Vep (1996) actually covered somewhat similar ground far more impressively.] Note that SotV got two Oscar noms: Makeup, and Supporting Actor for Dafoe. The director Elias Menhige slunk back to theater after his followup (and only other) film was a critical and commercial disaster.

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Speaking of pretty shocking, see below:

Oscar nominations that CITIZEN KANE (9) and MANK (10) have in common:
Picture, Actor, Director, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Score

Noms exclusive to MANK:
Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Makeup

Noms exclusive to KANE:
Screenplay (Winner), Editing

Kane's only win, Best Screenplay, is a category that Mank, a screenplay about screenwriting, didn't get a nomination in.

One of my favorite film books is about the making of Kane, with lots of production stills, special effect breakdowns (Kane is loaded with them),
shots from other films that influenced Kane, audio innovations, etc.

I would love a film about the making of this technically ground-breaking movie, and though I haven't seen it, it sounds like Mank is not it.

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I would love a film about the making of this technically ground-breaking movie, and though I haven't seen it, it sounds like Mank is not it.
Right, Mank barely touches on Kane's production, rather it's almost all about the (prehistory of the) writing of the first full draft of Kane's screenplay. The late '90s HBO film 'RKO 281' is probably the closest to what you're looking for. It's no great shakes in my view but it *is* flat-out more interesting than Mank since it covers the production of CK and the battle over its release.

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My fantasy making-of film would include Gregg Toland's great deep focus photography for John Ford that he took to the limit in Kane, and a look at the work of the art director, Perry Ferguson I believe, who hung great sheets of black velvet all over the set that photographed like deep space.

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Toland is a featured character in RKO 281 and there's a good scene of him doing pre-production work with Orson, e.g., watching lots of Ford movies with him and coaching novice Orson on what sorts of shots you need so that things will cut together, on what lens are used in different shots or for different effects, and so on (famously *Anthony Perkins* gave Mike Nichols a similar sort of technical tutorial over a weekend when Nichols first came out to Hollywood to make Virginia Wolff). But focal lengths are never mentioned and once production begins the basic vibe is Toland saying 'it can't be done' and Orson bulling through that opposition. Thus we get a scene where Orson takes out an axe to start chopping through the studio floor so the camera *can* shoot up from ground level. And we get a scene where Orson ignores Toland's advice and destroys a camera.

Overall, RKO 481 focuses more on Orson's collaboration with Mank (and giving him credit) than his collaboration with Toland. This is unfortunate because, of course, just as Osrson shared the writing credit with Mank, he put Toland's ciinematography credit on the same credits page as Orson's directorial credit. The real Welles knew very well how much he owed to Toland and let everyone know it.

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From what I've read about Toland, the schoolmarmish "It can't be done" to rebellious upstart Welles is probably dramatic license, as Toland was always a tinkerer and constantly invented new ways to photograph films. I gather that they were thick as thieves during the production and egged on each other's creativity.

RKO 481 is on YouTube, a clean copy, and scrolling through the scenes, I was pleased to see that they rebuilt sets from Kane and we get to see them in glorious color, something that the making-of-Psycho film Hitchcock sorely lackerd, as has been discussed on these boards.

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Speaking of pretty shocking, see below:

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Ah...a great comparison of eras! I daresay that 1941 was a more important year at the Oscars than...2021.

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Oscar nominations that CITIZEN KANE (9) and MANK (10) have in common:
Picture, Actor, Director, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Score

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The former deserved all...the latter...none. I even found the b/w cinematography in Mank too boring for the subject matter. (As swanstep points out, Hearst' Castle is rendered as nothing.)

And I LIKE Gary Oldman...but not much , here.

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Noms exclusive to MANK:
Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Makeup

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I'm not sure there was a make-up Oscar in 1941.

Supporting actress? Which one? The one who played Marion Davies, I suppose...and gave off no "star vibe," even minor.

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Noms exclusive to KANE:
Screenplay (Winner), Editing

Kane's only win, Best Screenplay,

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I've found, through Oscar history, that the greatest films that DON'T win Best Picture often win Best Screenplay(two chances a year: Adapted and Original....though original is not very competitive.)

Kane....Chinatown....Pulp Fiction, Fargo, LA Confidential...

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is a category that Mank, a screenplay about screenwriting, didn't get a nomination in.

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It didn't deserve one. One of the great "movie stories" rendered into a tale about a man who never gets out of bed...

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One of my favorite film books is about the making of Kane, with lots of production stills, special effect breakdowns (Kane is loaded with them),
shots from other films that influenced Kane, audio innovations, etc.

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I recall that book, from the 70s when a LOT of good books came out about great movies. I don't have it, though. I think it came with a copy of Pauline Kael's essay "Raising Kane" which first sought to name Mank as the true creator(making the still alive at the time Orson Welles and his pal Peter Bogdanovich very angry.)

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I would love a film about the making of this technically ground-breaking movie, and though I haven't seen it, it sounds like Mank is not it.

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Well, opinions will differ. I thought it was a major "miss," and all these Oscar nominations (for a film barely screened in theaters) seem almost an insult to Oscar tradition. That said, the 2020 Oscars(in 2021) seem fordoomed to asterisk status. Maybe it was just as well not to have many really good movies out in 2020.

Hey, I actually found "Hitchcock"(about the making of Psycho) to be better than Mank...and I only liked about 1/3 of that one.

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Hitchcock could do stuck in a wheelchair, stuck on a lifeboat, stuck at a murderous dinner party. Fincher should have been up to the challenge of stuck in bed.

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Hitchcock could do stuck in a wheelchair, stuck on a lifeboat, stuck at a murderous dinner party. Fincher should have been up to the challenge of stuck in bed.

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Ha. Never thought of that and...absolutely.

I perhaps was in a bad mood -- and cooped up myself at home, a prisoner to streaming -- when I watched Mank. I reacted strongly against the WEAKNESS of his exhausted character lying there in bed. I blinked out at times. If I recall correctly -- "suddenly" -- in one scene, Mank hands over all the pages of his perfect Kane screenplay FROM his position in bed. Evidently he got it all dictated out, in a comatose state....

Someone else might find this all well and good.

The movie tries to get around the "stuck in bed" thing by tossing in flashbacks to earlier years and an ambulatory Mank...but those scenes seem too perfunctory and uninteresting on their own. Its when he's stuck in bed that he's writing Citizen Kane...the movie is most dull when it should be most interesting.

As a side-bar, the movie tries to make a lot out of the Gubernatorial bid(in California, in the 30s) of left-wing populist Upton Sinclair and how it failed due to Hearst-influenced politics. But even THAT is handled in too quick a manner to much matter to the story at hand: Kane.

PS. One wonders about Netflix in these COVID times. They've got a good recent mix of "streaming movies" on there -- The Irishman, Buster Scruggs(from the Coens), a couple more but...not much new or major has been produced or bought by Netflix recently beyond "The Trial of the Chicago 7" (great cast; too funny for the grim material) and...Mank.

Netflix gonna come up with any new "big" movies anytime soon?

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It's when he's stuck in bed that he's writing Citizen Kane...the movie is most dull when it should be most interesting.
Relatedly, the movie seemed to me to completely flub its potentially most interesting relationship, between Mank and Marion Davies. Davies reads Mank's script and basically gives Mank a complete pass on it and even says she'd like to be still young enough to play herself (accepting the ID of Susan Alexander with her!) in the film when it gets made. Then we never see Davies again.

Now, really! I gather that Davies was a very nice, good-humored, ray-of-sunshine-type person. But she *must* have been hurt by what happened and felt specifically betrayed by her friend Mank (and guilty too because she was the one who brought him into Hearst's orbit). There's real dramatic potential here that Fincher's film just passes on. Put another way: there needed to be at least one more scene at the end, i.e., between Marion and and Mank.

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My favorite scene from Amadeus is when Mozart, on his deathbed, dictates his last score to Salieri. It could be dramatically viable, but maybe not when stretched out over the entire length of a film.

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My favorite scene from Amadeus is when Mozart, on his deathbed, dictates his last score to Salieri. It could be dramatically viable, but maybe not when stretched out over the entire length of a film

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In my haste to condemn Mank for its "guy stuck in bed" motif, I did forget to note that scenes of characters stuck in beds are rife in movie history, and many of them are very good.

Especially deathbed scenes, which can range from dramatic (Amadeus) to tear-jerking(Terms of Endearment.)

On the "thriller side," in "Sorry, Wrong Number" you've got invalid Barbara Stanwyck trapped in her bed for the whole movie...and eventually murdered there at the end.

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Truth be told, The Parallax View is a "thriller" with no thrills...Alan Pakula had no real thriller chops. A "bomb at the airport" sequence was shot like a TV episode, not like a movie.
I agree that Parallax's thriller mechanics are its weak point... and that that box-office-imperilling weakness does in fact point to a slightly wider problem with the film's believability. So, e.g., not only does it feel *cheap* and unexciting that the only coverage we get of the bomb-blast on the plane (*after* it's landed and Frady and everyone else has deplaned) is a shaking-the-camera shot of some Terminal interior, but also the movie never seems to acknowledge *what just happened*: a plane was just blown up at LAX, and that true disaster had only been averted because someone on the plane had anonymously alerted the crew about the bomb and been believed and the halfway-to-Denver plane had turned around and flown back to LA and offloaded passengers and crew just in time. Oh and a US Senator & his aids were on the plane. I'm sorry but *that* story would have been a national sensation for weeks, not some minor news footnote. Every passenger would have been scrutinized, you name it. Frady's Parallax alias, 'Richard Paley' would have come out. Orthodox thriller mechanics would have covered this and at the very least Frady would be seen to be aware that Parallax would now know that he's onto them, ruining their plots. More generally, Frady's a reporter and here he would be at the center of one of the biggest news stories of the year. And yet we never see him even *think* about trying to tell his wider story - "it was Parallax who did it!" - to the media (& FBI etc.) who'd be all over him. Indeed, after the explosion we never see Frady interact with his (soon-to-be-killed-by-P) editor to talk over his role in one of the biggest news stories of the year, and the thriller mechanics of how P knew to kill the editor are left completely mysterious (rather than as in a conventional thriller Frady would have an anguished clear sense of how his freelance heroism on the plane has ended up blowing his cover and costing his editor *his* life). Indeed as far as the movie is concerned we never see Frady learn that his editor is dead.

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Because we're left to compute so much for ourselves, the film is genuinely mysterious. But insofar as we do compute things, to that extent the degree of jeopardy Frady knows he's putting himself in when he goes *back* to LA to try to thwart/participate in a full-blown Parallax operation goes through the roof. If your cover is blown then you're a dead man as a solo operator.And, really, why wouldn't Parallax just kill him at that point? Why go to such incredible lengths to work him into P's next operation as the next patsy? That's way too cute for a big heartless lethal corporation.

And, really, somewhat similar problems occur right at the beginning of the movie. Paula Prentiss's character tells Frady that she's scared to death because 6 people have died from the Space Needle event. But killing people is self-defeating behavior from Parallax. Paula Prentiss says she in fact didn't 'see anything' at the Space Needle - she's now lierally fearing being killed because other people like her are dying not because she 'knows anything'. That seems likely to be the case with the other people Parallax targeted, so wtf Parallax? Stop killing people and the story dies out. Wantonly killing people, however, ensures attention from authorities etc..

All these problems conceded, however, I do love The Parallax View. It's no thriller but it does conjure up a truly memorable kind of unease and alienated drift and paranoia. Its lack of thriller smarts in this way seems intentional, instead we're in the space of things like Blow-up or Zabriskie Point (and of earlier Antonioni films such as Red Desert and La Notte and L'Aventurra) where important events are happening *around* our main characters but the characters themselves don't really understand what's going on or even their own motivations. The upshot in such films is that something deep but unspoken about 'modern life' is being captured and diagnosed before our eyes. The characters are just in it, perhaps almost sleepwalking through it, and famously in Antonioni's films characters or story-lines often just drift away or disappear. Given this kind of lineage for TPV, the stars of the show are Gordon Willis's photography and Michael Small's score:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GExP6OfRqI4
Those contributions are the key building blocks of the mood and the diagnosis of the film.

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I stand by my original judgment that Sorkin's pretty basic Trial of the Chicago 7 is the better Netflix Oscar contender this year with a better script and better casting and performances, etc..

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Chicago 7 could/should be my favorite of 2020 because I'm a self-amused slave to the "Sitcom 101A" insult humor of Aaron Sorkin. Its TOO easy, what he writes, but here he turned EVERYBODY into silver tongued comic geniuses. Which, in real life...they weren't. Especially ugly humorless Tom Hayden. (No less a 60's countercultural force than Tommy Smothers found Hayden insufferable.)

We reach this "easy" line for Sacha Baron Cohen's Abbie Hoffman:

"Dillinger was a gangster. Derringer is a gun. Dave Dellinger is a defendant here, and I'm not related to Judge Hoffman."

Note in passing: I think he knows this, but when the disguises are off, Sacha Baron Cohen is a very handsome, sexually charismatic actor -- true star quality, very tall, and he lords over Chicago 7 with it -- even as he is paired for a "Mutt and Jeff" routine with smallish Jeremy Strong doing Tommy Chong as Jerry Rubin. I'll note that Strong is a total a-hole character in Sorkin's "Molly's Game," a real male skunk rotter. To see him transformed into such a sweet character HERE was a revelation. It makes him harder to watch in Molly's Game(which I have done since seeing Chicago 7.)

You've got the fine Mark Rylance doing HIS one-liners as William Kunstler, and Michael Keaton continuing his new run as a "senior character star" as Ramsey Clark....its all fun to watch and listen to -- MUCH better than Mank ("a movie about a man in a bed") but...something's too pat about it, and I had a real problem with the overwrought ending, which seemed to backfire with piety after a movie of legal maneuvers.

Now more than ever as 2021 brings medical issues "back," I'm sticking with my daredevil visit to see the Psycho German print at a movie theater as rendering my favorite movie of 2020.


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I agree that Parallax's thriller mechanics are its weak point... and that that box-office-imperilling weakness does in fact point to a slightly wider problem with the film's believability. So, e.g., not only does it feel *cheap* and unexciting that the only coverage we get of the bomb-blast on the plane (*after* it's landed and Frady and everyone else has deplaned) is a shaking-the-camera shot of some Terminal interior,

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THAT's what I remember now -- just a "shaking the camera shot" of some Terminal interior.

One problem that some of us had with 70's movies is that a lot of them simply didn't "do the work" of basic filmmaking. That shaking camera was an insult. I remember sitting in the theater thinking, "well, these filmmakers aren't interested in making a movie, so I'm not interested in watching it much longer."

And Warren Beatty's commitment to the role seemed "less than." He did a surprisingly good fight scene up front in the movie(he was a big strapping guy who rarely showed off his size) and there was an ALMOST Hitchcockian bit with a release of deadly water from a dam (a weak echo of a similar scene with Nicholson in Chinatown the same summer) but...as the movie went on, you just didn't believe that Beatty was convincing anybody that he was a potential assassin.

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but also the movie never seems to acknowledge *what just happened*: a plane was just blown up at LAX, and that true disaster had only been averted because someone on the plane had anonymously alerted the crew about the bomb and been believed and the halfway-to-Denver plane had turned around and flown back to LA and offloaded passengers and crew just in time. Oh and a US Senator & his aids were on the plane. I'm sorry but *that* story would have been a national sensation for weeks,

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That's right. The whole thing was so perfunctory as to be ...unbelievable.

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Indeed as far as the movie is concerned we never see Frady learn that his editor is dead.

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Yep. Here is something interesting in passing(to me):

The editor was played by a now-aged Hume Cronyn, who, we know, worked a few times for Hitchcock both as an actor and as a writer.

Well, YEARS after seeing Cronyn in The Parallax View, I got a book on Frenzy and in that book is a letter from Hume Cronyn to Hitchcock. Its a polite letter that says "I have not worked in nine months, Hitch, so if there is a role in Frenzy to consider for me, please do." Hitchcock wrote right back "There is no role that would fit your great talent, but if there were...you'd be at the top of the list." Such a kindly, rueful rejection.

So it took Hume Cronyn some more "hustle" and about another year, to get a good role in
The Parallax View.

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All these problems conceded, however, I do love The Parallax View.

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..and though my reaction to the film is "in the negatory" that does not mean that it isn't important in its own way, nor that the "paranoid thrillers" of the 70's were not important, either.

The Parallax View "caught" what had horrified us in America: assassination after assassination after assassination that changed the course of history and changed who ran the American government, as if "killing off Presidents and candidates" was simply the way things got run. THAT was the true horror of it: government just "picked up the pieces" and kept going. Murder swept under the rug.

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It's no thriller but it does conjure up a truly memorable kind of unease and alienated drift and paranoia. Its lack of thriller smarts in this way seems intentional, instead we're in the space of things like Blow-up or Zabriskie Point (and of earlier Antonioni films such as Red Desert and La Notte and L'Aventurra) where important events are happening *around* our main characters but the characters themselves don't really understand what's going on or even their own motivations. The upshot in such films is that something deep but unspoken about 'modern life' is being captured and diagnosed before our eyes. The characters are just in it, perhaps almost sleepwalking through it, and famously in Antonioni's films characters or story-lines often just drift away or disappear. Given this kind of lineage for TPV, the stars of the show are Gordon Willis's photography and Michael Small's score:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GExP6OfRqI4
Those contributions are the key building blocks of the mood and the diagnosis of the film.

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I will take all of those points. These were perhaps art films first, commercial thrillers second(if at all.)

In fact, now I've got a hankering to watch The Parallax View again.


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Meanwhile: after rather striking out with The Parallax View as Oscar bait in 1974, Warren Beatty got real relevant again the next year in 1975 with Shampoo, a 1968-based mix of Nixonian politics, Hollywood lifestyles, and sex that got a lot of ink and box office. (And Lee Grant an Oscar.)

1975 opened with Shampoo for Beatty, and closed with Cuckoo's Nest for Nicholson(and an Oscar) but...the TWO of them in the same year came a cropper with the bizarre black comedy The Fortune...taking director Mike Nichols down with them.

Nothing could be counted on!

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The Parallax View "caught" what had horrified us in America: assassination after assassination after assassination that changed the course of history and changed who ran the American government
I should add that one problem these days for TPV is that, in a clear sense, we're all living through what happens when conspiracist thinking takes over and becomes utterly mainstream. That is, now we're all aware of how *eager* millions of people are to believe in vast conspiracies on essentially no evidence (even at great cost to their own families and personal relationships). It's part of the basic playbook of modern politics to 'flood the zone with BS', create FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt), and in general to exploit voters' vanity & irrationality & partisanship all of which are expressed in their willingness to think conspiratorially & believe exciting nonsense over prosaic facts.

In the '90s, I was an early fan of The X-files but had to stop watching it after a Season or two as it became more popular because I could feel that it was contributing to a rise in typically highly anti-government, paranoid conspiracist thinking. I don't live in the US anymore, but I imagine that if I did I might again be too worried about the rising tide of paranoid delusion being stoked in the country to enjoy TPV as much as I currently do. Worry that your neighbors aren't going to get vaccinated, might be likely to storm the Capitol or shoot up the local Synagogue, etc. has a way of focusing the mind, cold turkey fashion, strictly on reality to compensate.

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I should add that one problem these days for TPV is that, in a clear sense, we're all living through what happens when conspiracist thinking takes over and becomes utterly mainstream.

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Well, it was bound to happen and largely through this "Satanic machine" we are typing on right now. I try to keep my use of it to a discussion of movies and "that which gives me pleasure" but...the paranoia now runs deep.

Which is OK. Its really ONLY on the internet, it only peeps out in the real world so often.

We moved on from the assassinations to today's world: anybody can get killed by a mass shooter psycho at any time. Interesting how it only took a few decades to bring everybody into the terror but...again...the world we made.

I'll make this "positive" note about the assassinations: the system in the US ultimately corrected for them. JFK's murder led to the revelation of LBJ as a major war monger -- he was stopped and removed in 1968.

RFK's murder indirectly led to President Richard Nixon...and Watergate eventually took that presidency away from Nixon. The system reasserted itself with the end of the Draft and the infusion of mediocrities like Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and.....DISCO.

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That is, now we're all aware of how *eager* millions of people are to believe in vast conspiracies on essentially no evidence (even at great cost to their own families and personal relationships). It's part of the basic playbook of modern politics to 'flood the zone with BS', create FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt), and in general to exploit voters' vanity & irrationality & partisanship all of which are expressed in their willingness to think conspiratorially & believe exciting nonsense over prosaic facts.

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Always remember...there are millions more of us who ignore all of this. As we should.

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I will add this, though:

Hitchcock's critical enemy Stanley Kauffman wrote of Psycho that "Hitchcock's intentions were no more profound than sending ma and pa home to beer and bed with a couple of shocks to remember."

At a "basic" level -- the two murders -- yes.

At a "profound" level -- NO. Psycho is a seminal work of TWO centuries now, because it posited not only that madness exists, but a special KIND of madness exists...a desire to kill, to destroy, to anhilate others, which we see every month these days.

I believe Dave Chapelle made this joke, though: the COVID pandemic did manage to keep a lot of the shooters home in 2020.

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A side thought on "The Parallax View":

As I go through my "lists" of movies I have liked over 6 decades or so, I'm sadly reminded that for me, personally...in a lot of years -- even in the GOOD years of the 70's, etc...there were a lot of disappointing movies.

Take 1972. Hitchcock's Frenzy that summer rather got an "overkill" effect of rave reviews through the summer; critics kept checking in to remind US that IT was so good.

Well, in the summer of 1972, drive-ins and the like were captured by such "meh" movies as Ben(about a rat), Shaft's Big Score, Hannie Caulder(Raquel Welch in a Western); Kansas City Bomber(Raquel Welch as a roller derby girl), Skyjacked(one of the most cheapjack of Chuck Heston disaster movies)...it was BAD. Even Clint Eastwood in Joe Kidd was a short, perfunctory Western.

So Frenzy ended up being "great" by default, in certain ways, by demonstrating qualities of script and style and authorial intent.

Came 1974, things were SOMEWHAT better, but not a lot better. I recall being very depressed by the opening rape and murder of Charles Bronson's nice wife and daughter in law in Death Wish(Chuck never catches THOSE attackers.) I recall how a not-bad Clint Eastwood caper movie(Thunderbolt and Lightfoot) ended on its own "downer" note(co-star Jeff Bridges is beaten and dies a slow death.)

And I recall finding The Parallax View to be a rather empty thriller with an almost-preordained sense of doom.

Three movies got all the hype as 1974 began: The Exorcist(still drawing long lines and crowds since Xmas); Chinatown(dutifully promoted within an inch of its life by producer/studio head Bob Evans and....The Towering Inferno, in which once it was known that Steve McQueen AND Paul Newman were finally going to work together(with some other big stars)...I spent all of '74 counting the days to Xmas and THAT movie.

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The fall of 1974 had two really cheesy Universal disaster movies -- Airport 1975 and Earthquake -- before Steve and Paul showed up with the class act that was Towering Inferno(with MUCH better dialogue than had been in the cheesy Poseidon Adventure of two Christmases before.)

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Still...'74 had this "air" about it. Downers on the dramatic side. Disaster cheese on the movie movie side.

And a brutally fun little prison football movie that left audiences cheering -- The Longest Yard -- despite a downer ending for Burt Reynolds at the end.

My point here is that, in any given movie year, a lot of the films are disappointing from the get-go. Maybe the script is at fault. Maybe cheap production quality. But we showed up anyway..in 1974.

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You don't own shit.
Having to pay again to see a movie? Imagine that before vhs, so for most of cinema lifespan, that's exactly what happened. How much has Disney made by reissuing its classics?
So what if they want to go back to that model?

Cinema is dead. Movies have always been content. Tvs now are as big at 3 meters as a cinema screen at 15 meters, so who cares? I won't miss all the assholes caughing on my neck.

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