Talking Movies: Mank, I Am Woman and Control

Spling reviews Mank, I Am Woman and Control as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about an old Hollywood style drama and two music biography dramas.

Starting off with a film now on Netflix…


1930’s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz.

Director: David Fincher

Stars: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Lily Collins

– Oldman has long been viewed as a supporting actor but has demonstrated his versatility as a lead in The Darkest Hour and now Mank.
– Playing a screenwriter makes sense, a role traditionally downplayed in terms of importance, but a 43-year-old is a bit of a stretch.
– Oldman is captivating as usual and it’s a real treat for fans of movies from the age, delivering a character portrait about one of Hollywood’s unsung heroes, who worked on The Wizard of Oz, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Pride of the Yankees as well as his magnum opus, Citizen Kane.
– Mank has been shot like an old Hollywood film, composing shots, sound and performances in a manner fitting of the time.
– David Fincher has crafted a picture that feels a part of the age with contemporary reflections on today’s Hollywood, American politics and the era of fake news.
– From casting to wardrobe, every aspect has been fine-tuned to feel like it’s from the time, which may amaze some and frustrate others.
– It has the same allure of Trumbo with Bryan Cranston, but is a much more authentic, visually-striking and committed character portrait by contrast.
– Each film attempts to capture the tone of their subject, this film explores Mank’s precarious relationship with Hollywood studios and collaborators.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a film releasing to DStv Box Office…


The story of 1970s musician and activist Helen Reddy.

Director: Unjoo Moon

Stars: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters and Danielle Macdonald

– Reddy was an influential singer and iconic figure in the feminist movement.
– Somehow lost in the humdrum of pop culture, many won’t know Reddy’s name but will be inspired and entertained by this strong biographical music drama.
– We’ve seen Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody and I Am Woman follows in the name title convention with a fairly formulaic approach to this music biopic.
– It’s a passion project for producer-director Unjoo Moon who directs with finesse, offering an artful yet emotive take on Reddy’s career.
– It’s a strong showcase and breakthrough role for Cobham-Hervey who could be described as a hybrid of Keira Knightley and Lily James in terms of appearance and screen presence.
– Peters is equally surprising and unrecognisable in this mature role, almost channeling Gary Cole in a complex and multi-faceted performance.
– The music is impressive and Cobham-Hervey adopts Reddy’s mannerisms in her live performances.
– I Am Woman’s most incredible feat is its mis-en-scene, serving as a complete immersion into the age without tipping into a distracting or unintentional comedy.
– There’s a nostalgic air to this return to the ’70s, capturing the zeitgeist without pandering too much to modern audiences.
– I Am Woman represents a broad and unfettered cross-section of inherent sexism in society, which filters into the male-dominated music industry politics and the fabric of Reddy’s dysfunctional relationship with Wall.
– The film ends on a powerful and self-reflective note.
– While it’s a formulaic and expedient chronicle of Reddy’s music career, it’s emotionally connective and entertaining, backed by two strong co-leads.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a film now on Labia Home Screen…


A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division.

Director: Anton Corbijn

Stars: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton and Craig Parkinson

– It’s always a bold move to film in black-and-white, a decision that generally narrows your audience and relegates your film to independent art house.
– Yet, it’s difficult to imagine Control being filmed any other way.
– Clouds of smoke, gleaming eyes and wonderful textures make it seem as though a touring photographer had made it his mission to document Curtis’ life over the course of his brief yet impactful music career in Macclesfield in the early 1970s.
– This is a moody and haunting film from Corbijn who has a long history of making music videos.
– Here he’s brought a series of priceless snapshots to life, transposing the brooding feel of black-and-white photos of a new wave rock band into scenes that drip with cool.
– Riley does a terrific job of capturing the enigmatic spirit of the star-gazing Curtis, reliably supported by Morton who rightfully gets first billing in the closing credits.
– The language is coarse and the drug abuse is frequent yet feels very much at home in spite of these excesses.
– Corbijn creates rich photographic moments from visceral full band performances in cramped venues to simply going walkabout with Curtis in his dreary hometown.
– While delving into the typical sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll dimension, there’s a grounded feel to Control… representing a rather unglamorous rock biography made glamorous by its transcendent style and mood.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

MANK… a strong lead and timely biographical story reinforce this accurate, nostalgic and visually-striking return to old Hollywood and character portrait… An excellent 8!

I AM WOMAN… excellent co-lead performances and an immersive cinematic treatment compel this formulaic yet emotive and entertaining music biopic drama… A solid 7!

CONTROL… moody black-and-white snapshots are brought to life in this effortlessly cool, visceral, haunting and well-acted music biopic drama… An excellent 8!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!