Network

Dir: Sidney Lumet, 1976. Starring: Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall. Drama.
Network

Network has cemented its place as one of the finest and most enduring examples of American cinema. A satirical look into the media industry and its effect on the human condition, a film that unflinchingly makes points and claims that, in 1976, may have seemed like comedic exaggeration, yet today are accepted norms. Prophetic and eloquent, a film whose undying relevance seems to resonate with growing intensity as time moves on...

"This story is about Howard Beale, who was the network news anchorman on UBS-TV." This is the narrated introduction to the film. Beale, played by Peter Finch, has recently learned of his imminent firing from the station and announces his plan to commit suicide in a future broadcast, live on television. This creates a huge uproar at the corporate level and, soon after Frank Hackett, the Executive Senior Vice President of the network, appears (played by Robert Duvall) to fire Beale on the spot.

Max Schumacher (William Holden), President of the news division, who is a close friend of Beale's, decides to give him an opportunity to redeem himself on the air with a professional apology. Instead, Beale proceeds to rant about how "life is bullshit," causing another uproar at the station.

Diana Christiansen, played by Faye Dunaway, an ambitious VP of Programming, then convinces Hackett, her boss, to put Beale back on the air, after noticing a huge surge in ratings. Soon after Beale becomes "the mad prophet of the airwaves" and "The Howard Beale Show" ultimately becomes the highest rated program on television.

What ensues afterwards is the progressive dehumanization of the network, and its attempts to generate more and more revenue through the exploitation of violence and public rage, all the while Beale, who represents an almost transcendent human ideal of truth, finds himself progressively enmeshed in the savage reality of a world where:  "There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians! There are no Arabs! There are no Third Worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars!"

If one were to take issue with any aspect of the film it would most likely be with the dialogue - lengthy blocks of dialogue permeate this film, at times seeming to sit awkwardly in their scene. But I would suggest that one keep in mind the film's subtle dreamlike air; I feel that Network often strays into unrealistic, or exaggerated territory (it is after all, a satire), and the dialogue contributes to the feeling of corporate mythology created in this film. It is also these same blocks of dialogue that are the meat and potatoes of this film. The quality of the writing is astounding and includes several memorable lines that have become standard pop culture references, including the famous "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

Peter Finch deservedly won an Academy Award for Best Actor, as his performance is largely what makes the film so memorable. All in all, the film gathered four Academy Awards and was nominated for six additional ones. It could be said that the entirety of the cast did an excellent job of interpreting this largely unconventional material.

Network is one of those movies that everyone has got to see. An awesome force in the world of cinema, a transporting, and inspiring example of just how great a film can be. ____________________________

Network won four Oscars:  Best Actor (Peter Finch), Best Actress (Faye Dunaway), Best Supporting Actress (Beatrice Straight), and Best Original Screenplay. It was nominated for six additional Oscars:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (William Holden), Best Supporting Actor (Ned Beatty), Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.

Posted by:
Jonah Rust
Jun 8, 2009 7:49pm
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