Album Review: Daddy’s Home by St. Vincent


Album: Daddy’s Home
Artist: St. Vincent
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Label: Loma Vista Recording
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Down and Out Downtown”
  • “The Melting of the Sun”
  • “Somebody Like Me”
  • “My Baby Wants a Baby”
  • “…At the Holiday Party”

Thoughts:

Annie Clark, who performs as St. Vincent, is something of a chameleon, changing her personal appearance and musical style from album to album.  This has lead to fascinating career with the highpoint of her 2014 album St. Vincent which I really loved, but also 2017’s Masseduction, which I really did not. On Daddy’s Home, the glam rock and pop noise of the past have been replaced by a soul and funk sound joined together thematically around the idea of New York City in the 1970s.  The album title is inspired by Clark’s actual father’s release from prison after serving time for a decade for stock manipulation, but Clark suggests this is more metaphorical than biographical.  To me, this album feels like a return to form for St. Vincent, which means it’s something new and experimental.

Rating: ***

Album Review: Menneskekollektivet by Lost Girls


Album: Menneskekollektivet
Artist: Lost Girls
Release Date: March 26, 2021
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Menneskekollektivet”
  • “Carried by Invisible Bodies”
  • “Love, Lovers”

Thoughts: This debut album from a Norwegian duo consisting of singer-songwriter Jenny Hval and multi-instrumentalist Håvard Volden is one of the most remarkable things I’ve rested my ears on in some time.  It sounds like ambient music layered on Laurie Anderson avant-garde styles, layered on 90s techno, layered on 70s disco.  Maybe it won’t sound that way to you but the best way to describe it is as layered and rich.  The lyrics focus on feelings and capture emotions in their sound and repetition as much as in their words.  Their is a lot of improvisation and exploration in this music. I expect this will be on my favorite albums list at the end of 2021.

Rating: ****1/2

Classic Movie Review: Sullivan’s Travels (1941)


Title: Sullivan’s Travels
Release Date: December 29, 1941
Director: Preston Sturges
Production Company: Paramount Pictures
Summary/Review:

Back in the 90s, I picked out this movie from my local library based solely on its title (I am that self-absorbed).  I remember being disappointed by the movie which I thought had a good premise, but never really went anywhere with it.  Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to revisit the movie having gained 25 years of wisdom and an appreciation for the work of Preston Sturges.

Well, my opinion of the film has shot up considerably.  John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a popular movie director who wants to make more serious message films about the struggles of ordinary Americans.  Clueless about the common people live due to his own privilege, he decides to travel incognito. On his travels he makes the acquaintance of an aspiring actress, known only as The Girl (a brilliant, nuanced performance from Veronica Lake) who joins him on his journey.

The filmmaking is subtle but brilliant.  Something I read pointed out that this movie is actually three different styles. It begins as a slapstick comedy.  Then it becomes a silent movie for an extended sequence as Sullivan and The Girl travel among the common people.  Finally it becomes a serious melodrama of the type Sullivan wanted to make at the beginning of the film set in a prison labor camp. The most remarkable scene in the movie occurs when Sullivan and other prisoners are invited to a Black church for a movie night and find joy in a Disney cartoon. For a film made in 1941, it was unusual to have a large number of Black characters and present them in a positive manner without stereotypes.

The message of the movie is that films work best as an escape, which seems a bit self-congratulatory but also makes a good point.  Of course, Sullivan’s Travels manages to be a message movie with a compassionate view of struggles of the poor while still being wildly entertaining.  Next week, I will review that The Grapes of Wrath that also shows that movies can be great without being escapist.

Having recently watched Mank, I think it would make a great double feature with Sullivan’s Travels since both movies satirize Golden Age Hollywood while contrasting it to the real struggles of Americans in the Great Depression.  Yes, the most obvious pairing would be to put Sullivan’s Travels with O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Mank with Citizen Kane, but I AM UNCONVENTIONAL!

Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week Ending May 15


Consider This ::  How One LA Neighborhood Reveals The Racist Architecture Of American Homeownership

The story of a vibrant Black neighborhood destroyed to build a highway is an all too familiar story in the US.

99% Invisible :: Tanz Tanz Revolution

How the Berlin Wall, and its fall, lead to Berlin becoming a center of Techno dance music.

Radio Boston :: New Data On Chelsea’s Guaranteed Basic Income Program

To help struggling people in Chelsea, MA, the city gave them direct cash payments as relief.  Good things happened.

What Next :: The Palestinian Perspective

A rarely heard perspective on the continuing crisis between Israel and Palestine.

What Next :: I Was a Teenager in a Syrian Prison

Omar Alshogre tells his story of being imprisoned for protesting the Syrian regime and eventually becoming a student at Georgetown University.

Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021

Movie Review: Palm Springs (2020)


TitlePalm Springs
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Director: Max Barbakow
Production Company: Limelight Productions | Lonely Island Classics | Sun Entertainment | FilmNation Entertainment
Summary/Review:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way:  Palm Springs follows the same basic premise of Groundhog Day where someone is living the same day over and over again on a seemingly infinite time loop. There are some key differences. When the film begins, Nyles (Andy Samberg) is already caught in a time loop attending a wedding in which his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner) is the bridesmaid.  He accidentally pulls a second person into the the loop with him, sister of the bride Sarah (Cristin Milioti).  And the movie has more elements of gross-out and sex comedy than Groundhog Day.

It’s an interesting reworking of a formula, and leads to a perfectly enjoyable romantic comedy.  Nyles and Sarah are initially contentious but grow closer after who knows how many thousands of repeats.  It’s a fun lark, but it’s not likely something I’ll return to.

Rating: **1/2

Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 330-321


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

500-491 400-381
490-481 390-381
480-471 380-371
470-461 370-361
460-451 360-351
450-441 350-341
440-431 340-331
430-421
420-411
410-401

Artist: The Rolling Stones
AlbumAftermath
Year: 1966
Label: London
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Paint it Black”
  • “Flight 505”
  • “Going Home”

Thoughts: I’m glad this album appears on this list because it’s not often mentioned among the great Rolling Stones albums, but it’s one of my favorites by the band. “Paint it Black” is one of my favorite Stones tracks with Brian Jones capturing the 60s zeitgeist by playing sitar.  But by and large this album is what the Stones do best, straightforward blues rock.


Artist: DJ Shadow
AlbumEndtroducing…
Year: 1996
Label: Mo’ Wax
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Building Steam With A Grain of Salt”
  • “The Number Song”
  • “Organ Donor”
  • “Midnight In a Perfect World”

Thoughts:

Here’s another album I’d never heard of that is absolutely brilliant.  DJ Shadow combines a hefty dose of samples with electronica beats.  This album feels like the missing link between De La Soul and Portishead.


Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: Modern Vampires of the City
Year: 2013
Label: XL
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Step”
  • “Diane Young”
  • “Finger Back”

Thoughts: I haven’t listened to the full album in a long time, although “Step” remains of my favorite tracks.  While nothing else on the album stands out as much to me, the songs are remarkably consistent in their quality.


Artist: The Who
AlbumLive at Leeds
Year: Decca
Label: 1970
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Maybe
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Heaven and Hell”
  • “A Quick One, While He’s Away”
  • “Shakin’ All Over”

Thoughts: The Who are a band that has never resonated with me for some reason.  They’re definitely not a bad band, I guess they’re just not my thing.  I listened to this album once before because it was recommended as a great live album.  I definitely think The Who must’ve been an exciting band to see in concert during their peak, but that’s an opportunity I never had.  I also like that this live album includes the banter between songs, which should be a requirement of live albums (assuming the band has good banter).


Artist: Prince
AlbumDirty Mind
Year: 1980
Label: Warner Bros
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Dirty Mind”
  • “When You Were Mine”
  • “Head”
  • “Partyup”

Thoughts: I’m mostly familiar with Prince’s music from his peak commercial years of around 1982-1992.  This early Prince album sounds different – heavy on chirpy synths – but still brilliant.  And horny.  So very horny.


Artist: Jerry Lee Lewis
AlbumAll Killer No Filler!
Year: 1993
Label: Rhino
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Crazy Arms”
  • “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On”
  • “Great Balls of Fire”

Thoughts: I couldn’t find this anthology on my streaming service so I listened instead to The Essential Jerry Lee Lewis [The Sun Sessions] instead which has almost the same number of tracks and a lot of overlap.  Basically it’s a case of Rolling Stone needing to include something from a rock & roll pioneer so I don’t think it matters either way.  I’m no Jerry Lee Lewis expert, but his Live at the Star Club, Hamburg album is critically acclaimed and would be less of a cop-out than a compilation. Or they could just have left him off entirely since he’s abusive, creepy, and a philanderer and thus doesn’t really deserve the special effort to squeeze him into a greatest albums list.


Artist: Coldplay
Album: A Rush of Blood to the Head
Year: 2002
Label: Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks: None

Thoughts: Sigh. I had to listen to Coldplay.  So I did.  I guess they’re not really bad, per se, just kind of boring for all the attention they get.  Oh well, I don’t have to listen to it again.


Artist: The Clash
AlbumSandinista!
Year: 1980
Label: Epic
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “The Magnificent Seven”
  • “Hitsville, U.K.”
  • “Somebody Got Murdered”
  • “The Sound of Sinners”
  • “Lose this Skin”

Thoughts: Three albums full of Clash music is the perfect palate-cleanser after Coldplay.  I wrote about Sandinista! a couple of years ago in my Music Discovery of The Clash.  It’s always worth revisiting this eclectic mix of punk, reggae, new wave, funk, and “world music.”


Artist: Elvis Presley
AlbumFrom Elvis in Memphis
Year: 1969
Label: RCA
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Wearin’ That Loved On Look”
  • “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms)”
  • “Suspicious Minds”

Thoughts: Last week we listened to Elvis Presley’s debut album from 1956. From Elvis in Memphis is something of a second debut, introducing the new Elvis making his return to a straightforward music-making after years of Hollywood movies.  This album shows that he can venture ably into different musical styles – country, gospel, soul, and rock and roll – and includes my favorite Elvis song of all-time, “Suspicious Minds.”


Artist: Lana Del Rey
AlbumNorman Fucking Rockwell!
Year: 2019
Label: Polydor/Interscope
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “The Next Best American Record”
  • “The Greatest”

Thoughts: Back in 2012 there was a lot of buzz about Lana Del Ray’s album Born to Die.  So I gave it a listen, and I didn’t like it all, so I haven’t given Del Rey much thought since then although there continues to be a buzz about her music. Del Rey definitely has an interesting voice and I like the lush arrangements on these songs.  But it still doesn’t resonate with me.  Maybe it’s all the sardonic lyrics about the California lifestyle or the fact that Del Ray seems bored by everything.  I don’t know.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440, Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439, James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438, Blur, Parklife
  • 437, Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435, Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433, LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431, Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430, Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429, The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428, Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427, Al Green, Call Me
  • 426, Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425, Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424, Beck, Odelay
  • 423, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422, Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421, M.I.A., Arular
  • 417, Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416, The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415, The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414, Chic, Risqué
  • 413, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go
  • 409, Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408, Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406, Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405, Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403, Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402, Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401, Blondie, Blondie
  • 400, The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398, The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397, Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392, Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
  • 390, Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • 388, Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • 387, Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 386, J Dilla, Donuts
  • 385, Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • 384, The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
  • 380, Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um
  • 378, Run-DMC, Run-D.M.C.
  • 377, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
  • 375, Green Day, Dookie
  • 374, Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
  • 373, Isaac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul
  • 371, The Temptations, Anthology
  • 369, Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  • 368, George Harrison, All Things Must Pass
  • 365, Madvillain, Madvillainy
  • 364, Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
  • 363, Parliament, The Mothership Connection
  • 360, Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove
  • 358, Sonic Youth, Goo
  • 357, Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
  • 356, Dr. John, Gris-Gris
  • 354, X-Ray Spex, Germfree Adolescents
  • 351, Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
  • 350, Stevie Wonder, Music of My Mind
  • 349, MC5, Kick Out the Jams
  • 348, Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator)
  • 347, GZA, Liquid Swords
  • 346, Arctic Monkeys, AM
  • 345, Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
  • 344, Toots and the Maytals, Funky Kingston
  • 343, Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits
  • 342, The Beatles, Let It Be
  • 341, The Smashing Pumpkins, Siamese Dream
  • 338, Brian Eno, Another Green World
  • 337, Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding
  • 335, Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes
  • 334, Santana, Abraxas
  • 333, Bill Withers, Still Bill
  • 332, Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
  • 330, The Rolling Stones, Aftermath
  • 329, DJ Shadow, Endtroducing…
  • 328, Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
  • 326, Prince, Dirty Mind
  • 323, The Clash, Sandinista!

Movie Review: Good Will Hunting (1997)


Title: Good Will Hunting
Release Date:  December 5, 1997
Director: Gus Van Sant
Production Company: Be Gentlemen
Summary/Review:

I have a soft spot for this movie because it was released shortly before I moved to Boston and served as a good orientation guide for to acclimate to the city.  Boston and Cambridge serve as great background for many of the scenes although a lot of the places no longer exist after 25 years of gentrification. (One scene was filmed in “The Tasty” in Harvard Square which went out of business before the movie was released).  The movie also set Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – who wrote and star in the movie – on the path to superstardom.

Good Will Hunting also helped kick off a decade and a half of Boston movies, although unlike many of its successors it does not focus on mobsters and violence.  Instead it is an intimate story about a troubled young man Will Hunting (Damon) who has grown up with abusive foster families.  Despite his poor background he is a prodigy who has educated himself, with a particular strength in mathematics. While working as a janitor at M.I.T. he solves an “impossible” equation on a chalkboard and attracts the attention of Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård, playing the role with equal parts arrogance and awe).  Because Will has been indicted for hitting a police officer, Lambeau arranges to have Will avoid jail time if he will work with him to solve mathematical problems and go to therapy.

After some false starts, Will begins to meet for regular therapy sessions with Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams, in what is probably his greatest “serious” movie role).  At the same time, Will starts dating Skylar (Minnie Driver), a Harvard student from Britain.  Will’s best friend Chuckie (Affleck) also challenges Will to take advantage of his intellectual gifts.  Through these three relationships Will’s defense mechanisms begin breaking down.

I like this movie because it is heartfelt without being cheezy.  There’s a lot of humor in the movie but it doesn’t shy away from serious issues.  And while the plot is  predictable, the heart of the movie is in its wonderful characters which payoff in individual moments.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Paradise by Toni Morrison


Author: Toni Morrison
Title: Paradise
Narrator: Toni Morrison
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2017 [Originally published 1997]
Summary/Review:

When Paradise was released in 1997, it was the first new Toni Morrison novel since I had learned about her and started reading all of her books.  I got it early on and struggled with it and had to return it to the library after only reading a small part.  I checked it out again but enough time had passed that I had to start over again and I ended up still not being able to finish it.  To my shame, I’ve finally read all of Paradise.  It’s still a book I struggle with, featuring a lot of characters and overlapping plots.

The story takes place in Ruby, and all-Black town in Oklahoma where the prominent men of town take up arms against the women in an abandoned convent on the outskirts of town.  The men treat the convent as if it were a brothel or a coven corrupting the morals in town.  In fact, it is a safe place for women who are escaping abuse, exclusion, and personal tragedies, mainly brought on by the patriarchy of the town and discrimination against light-skin Black people The narrative interweaves the personal stories of women who lived and died at the convent with the history of the town.

As I’ve noted, I found this to be a complex book.  It is also violent and disturbing which makes it hard for me to read.  It’s nonetheless a poetic work with Morrison’s typical honesty and compassion toward her characters.  But it is not going to be a favorite of mine among her novels.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro


Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Title: Klara and the Sun
Narrator: Sura Siu
Publication Info: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2021.
Previously Read By The Same Author:

Summary/Review:

Set in the near future in a dystopian United States, Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel is a science fiction story narrated by an android named Klara who is purchased as an Artificial Friend (AF) for a teenage girl named Josie.  In this society some children are “lifted” (genetically-engineered for intelligence and academic advancement) and others are not.  Josie is lifted while her closest neighbor Rick is not, for which he suffers discrimination.

The parallels to our contemporary education system are clear. And while Ishiguro probably wrote this before the pandemic, the novel also depicts the children as socially isolated and learning remotely through screens. Since Klara is solar-powered she begins to view the sun as a deity.  Thus the novel metaphorically explores the origins of ritual and religion as Klara begins to petition the sun for add.  There is also an environmental message in the description of the pollution that obscures the sun.

Klara is intelligent and observant but naive of the human society she enters into.  I’m reminded of the character Charlie in Flowers for Algernon in that Klara narrates details where the reader is more aware of the significance of what she is observing.  I also see parallels to Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree since Klara gives so much of herself to support her child.  The novel reminds me of the style of several young adult science fiction novels I’ve read in recent years.  This is a compliment because I think contemporary YA fiction is top notch and it’s interesting for a veteran author like Ishiguro to experiment with different styles.

Recommended books:

  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Mank (2020)


TitleMank
Release Date:November 13, 2020
Director: David Fincher
Production Company:
Netflix International Pictures | Flying Studio | Panic Pictures | Blue Light
Summary/Review:

This biographical drama tells the story of Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a talented screenwriter hired to write the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles. Welles sets up Mank in a remote desert rental house so he can write the screenplay while recovering from injuries from a car crash, with the ulterior motive of keeping the alcoholic Mank away from the drink. Rita Alexander (Lily Collins) serves as Mank’s secretary and confidante while John Houseman (Sam Troughton) checks in and frets over Mank’s progress.

The main story alternates with flashbacks to Mank’s memories from the previous decade.  In one storyline he befriends the actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and is drawn in the world of her powerful partner William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance).  Another plot focuses on the 1934 California gubernatorial campaign in which Hearst and the Hollywood moguls create propaganda films to smear the social democrat candidate Upton Sinclair.  Mank’s sympathies toward Sinclair puts him at odds with his wealth friends and his Hollywood bosses.

Since Citizen Kane is a satirical attack on Hearst, the conflict in this film is whether Mank should use his personal relationship to inform his writing of the screenplay.  Davies, as portrayed by Seyfried, is sweet, down to earth, and genuinely a friend to Mank, so his work could be seen as a betrayal.  But Mank also has good reasons to continue with the screenplay that will become his best work.

I don’t know how much of this film is “true to life,” although I expect that much of it is embellished. As much as I enjoyed the 62-year-old Oldman’s performance, I think it should be noted that Mank was in his 30s & early 40s when this film take place and actually a year younger than Davies.  I think those casting decisions in historical dramas can really affect our understanding of real life people.  Ultimately the historical accuracy takes a backseat to a personal story of Hollywood politics and one’s willingness to sacrifice personal beliefs.  It’s full of lots of Easter eggs if you know anything about Hollywood history, and is filmed in a style that is a homage to Citizen Kane.

Rating: ***