2020 Reviews: Mank/Sound of Metal/Shithouse

With Covid-19 and everything, it’s easy to forget new movies are still being released and while the current stress of the situation has driven me to plunge into the home-y comforts of classic movies I’ve seen a jillion times, I took some time this past weekend to catch three 2020 releases.

Mank

David Fincher‘s love for the medium is so apparent in every frame of Mank. This is one of the most gorgeous and technically proficient films of the year that just falls short of greatness when it comes to the narrative. First of all, Gary Oldman is predictably excellent as the self-destructive yet brilliant Citizen Kane writer Herman J. Manckiewiz, even if he is certainly 20 years too old to play the part. I mean, I understand people looked older back then but to have a grandma jello neck at “43” (the character’s age) is just gosh darn ridiculous. Even better than Oldman are Amanda Seyfried as William Randolph Hearst’s outspoken but calculating wife and a hilarious Arliss Howard as studio goon Louis B. Meyer. The cinematography is incredible and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross‘ score is flawless, the problem really comes with Jack Fincher‘s screenplay. While exceptionally well written from a dialogue perspective, structuring it in a way that completely imitates Citizen Kane hurts the movie’s dramatic momentum, especially in the final showdown. The modern day timeline with Lily Collins as Herman’s maid is boring as white bread toast and we keep going back to it, over, and over, and over again. All in all, this is pretty middle of the road for Fincher, nowhere near as gripping and emotionally satisfying as say The Social Network, but nowhere near as plodding and up its own ass as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It’s still a good movie though. Grade: B (NETFLIX)

Sound of Metal

There are movie experiences that simply make you say “Wow.” Once or twice a year, a film will do that to me and Sound of Metal is this year’s “Wow” movie. From first time writer/director Darius Marder, comes a compelling and completely honest character study about a drummer, Ruben (Riz Ahmed), that in one of the most frightening on-screen sequences of 2020, wakes up to discover he’s deaf. As much as the trailer leads you to believe otherwise, Ruben or the film is not out for your sympathy, it’s simply there to follow this guy closely as his life takes a complete 180 and he struggles to adjust, maybe gaining insights of our own along the way. As brilliant as Riz Ahmed is in this, and he’s a shoe-in for a Best Actor Oscar nomination, the performance of the film comes from Paul Raci as Joe. Joe is the warm but no-bullshit leader of the compound Ruben is staying at to help him learn to communicate without his voice. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Grade: A- (AMAZON PRIME)

Shithouse

There’s really nothing that groundbreaking about Shithouse, a coming-of-age comedy about an awkward freshman struggling to acclimate to college life. But what it sets out to do, it does near perfectly, better than most any similar film that proceeded it. A reason for this is Cooper Raiff, who wrote, directed, co-edited and acted in Shithouse giving it a feeling of cohesion no studio teen comedy could ever have. He’s joined by the fantastic Dylan Gelula as the RA on his floor he falls for and a solid Logan Miller as his awful comedian roommate (who is actually my good dude’s roommate IRL). Raiff‘s script is the real star though, which much like Sound of Metal, genuinely captures the struggle to acclimate. Grade: B+ ($6.99 AMAZON RENTAL)

Next Time on 2020 Movie Reviews…

I will almost certainly want to drown myself in my own farts after watching Prom, so don’t get upset if my review is just a middle finger emoji. I’ll cleanse my pallet with the quiet and nuanced marriage thriller, The Nest, starring Carrie Coon and Jude Law, as well as the new Audrey Plaza-is-crazy comedy, Black Bear.

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