Wednesday, April 27, 2011

612. NETWORK (1976)

Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Sidney Lumet
Written By: Paddy Chayefsky
Main Cast: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty


I bet you thought I forgot about the "Tribute to Lumet", as it's been several days since I watched "Serpico". I actually kind of did forget about it, but while browsing my Netflix instant queue today, I saw "Network" and realized I'd yet to finish Lumet's tribute. Unfortunately, I wouldn't call "Network" a fitting end to any tribute.

Howard Beale (Finch) has just been told that in two weeks time, he will no longer be the news anchor of the UBS Evening News. Howard Beale is kind of a "Cronkite-esque" personality, that old, reliable news man that people turned to to get their daily fix of goings on. However, with UBS wanting to change their direction and go with a more "out with the old, in with the new" motif, they've decided that Beale must go. After hearing the news, Beale proceeds to go on the airwaves during one of his last broadcasts and announce that before his time is up, he'll shoot himself on live television. The outburst garners considerable attention and Diana Christensen (Dunaway), eager to grab every last ratings point she can, capitalizes on the attention. She suggests that UBS keep Howard Beale on and revamp him as an "angry man" character, having him go on the air every night and raise his voice and create tirades. Beale grabs the opportunity because he doesn't want to be jobless and later he seemingly loses his marbles as his actions become madder than ever. William Holden also stars as Beale's old time friend in the news business, who hates to see his friend reduced to a circus act and ultimately loses his job because he won't play ball. Robert Duvall rounds out the stupendous cast as Frank Hackett, the hard nosed top executive in charge of UBS Studios.

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna' take it anymore!!"

That's the token line from "Network" and anybody who's even remotely interested in film, whether they've seen "Network" or not, has heard it. It's also the line that I felt compelled to yell at about the halfway mark of watching this pile of rubbish. Now, I already know what you're thinking: "How dare this lowly blog writer condemn the greatness that is Network!" There's just one problem though, I find absolutely nothing (except the acting) great about "Network". When I first started this blog, I said that I wasn't going to go easy on a film just because society has deemed it a classic. If a film came up, whether it was "Citizen Kane" or "The Black Cat", it was going to get my true opinions tacked on to it and I wasn't going to go soft and let public opinion scare me into going easy on a film. And honestly, I think there have been instances in the past where I've let it happen, but not this time. I cannot tiptoe around my true feelings for a film - "Network" is a terrible movie. Now remember folks, that's just my opinion and luckily when it comes to opinions not everyone is forced to share them - you can have yours and I'll have mine.

What is "Network" about? Is it merely a satire on the television industry? Is it merely trying to hammer home the fact that television and the people that determine what airs on television are basically people void of any real emotion? I don't know and I can't decide. Now, sure I could make my way to a number of websites and do a little reading and try to find someone who seems really smart to point me in the right direction and tell me what the ultimate message in "Network" is, but I don't want to do that and shouldn't have to do that. I'm a smart guy, yet the message of "Network" seems to be bogged down and may be a lot of little messages rolled into one. In fact, I think the most appealing idea, is that "Network" is a movie about the changing of the guard in terms of what was appropriate on television. You can look at television now and look at television forty years ago and there's obviously been a change. What is acceptable now, certainly wasn't acceptable back then and what was considered entertainment back then, would flop like a dying fish today. Maybe that's what "Network" is about. Maybe it's simply a film about the changing of generations and the invention of shock television. I don't know - whatever the ultimate, underlying theme/message is, I didn't like the film and in fact, I'd go as far as to call it one of the worst films ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Now then, there is SOME good in "Network" and that is the cast. They all shine and really make you wonder what it was about Sidney Lumet, that made his actors come to work with their game faces on. Peter Finch, Robert Duvall and William Holden are all fantastic. Faye Dunaway wasn't bad either, but there were some instances where she really seemed to be over selling the point that her character was a ruthless bitch. Peter Finch really shines and it's kind of appropriate that his character is the symbol for anti-establishment, when Finch's acting skills are anti-bad movie. It's also a shame that Finch never lived to accept his little gold statue. And while we're on the subject of the Oscars - Beatrice Straight wins the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress? Really? According to Wikipedia her character only had about 5 1/2 minutes of screen time and somehow she nabbed the award. WTF! I think if I were Jodie Foster or Piper Laurie, I'd be pissed...or maybe even so mad, that I'd refuse to take it anymore!

RATING: 2/10 I'll give it two points for acting, but even the acting was all a waste in my opinion, as it was fueling a dying engine and in the end, "Network" just wasn't my kind of flick.


April 26, 2011 9:02pm

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