Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


I have a fondness for movies from the early seventies. Older movies in general, really. Well, hell, I like movies in general. I like talking about them. Bad ones, good ones, great ones, etc. I think I've got a pretty good-sized and ever-growing movie collection on my hands. Network is one such movie in my collection. I added it to my collection only knowing that Sidney Lumet directed it and not much else. I'm real bad at buying stuff I've never seen before but 95% of the time it works out and I end up with a real good movie on my hands (or at least one I enjoyed that the rest of the world didn't). 

Sidney Lumet has directed a few films I've greatly enjoyed like Serpico, EquusDog Day Afternoon, The Hill, and 12 Angry Men. He's directed other stuff like The Wiz, but I'm not watching that one unless I absolutely have to. Network is a film from Lumet's "heyday," for lack of a better word. It stars Faye Dunaway (Chinatown), William Holden (The Wild Bunch), Peter Finch (The Flight of the Phoenix... you know, the good one), and Robert Duvall (The Godfather) and is based off the screenplay by some guy named Paddy Chayefsky.

God, I'd hate my parents if they had named me Paddy.

Wait a minute... Paddy was his nickname. Who the hell would willingly be called Paddy?

The producer for this film was Howard Gottfried and he's best known for... well, this. Aside from a few films here or there that I've never seen the guy basically dropped off the face of the earth. Gilbert's probably the more well known Gottfried although I don't think they're related.

I'm not a news person. I don't really pay attention to it aside from some local weather-related stuff. Yeah, it's a terrible habit to not stay up on the "serious" news.

However, this movie makes "serious" news marginally more palatable because it pokes fun at a lot of the hardcore corporate douchebags that make news (and television, in general) into a circus. Howard Beale (portrayed by a brilliant Peter Finch in his penultimate role) is a guy who is pissed off with the way things are going. He's been around a long time and he's beginning to lose his mind and at some point he just snaps. He becomes mad as hell and begins to rant and rave about all kinds of crazy shit on the air. Naturally, this turns a lot of folks off, but another audience starts to get tuned in to what he's saying. Like it all somehow makes sense to them. I think copious amounts of drugs probably played a key role, too.

Of course, there are people who want to milk Beale's slow descension into insanity for all it's worth. The characters played by Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall are just such people. Duvall is just about as far away from his nice guy Tom Hagen persona in The Godfather as he can get. Or, well, wait... Tom Hagen stood up for mobsters so he wasn't that nice but he wasn't an asshole, either. Duvall is just an asshole in this movie. 

William Holden (I actually haven't seen a lot of his movies for some reason... I only have watched Damien: The Omen II and The Wild Bunch) seems to be the only sane guy in this movie even though he does have an affair with the TV-obsessed crazy lady. I suppose he can be seen as the everyman bystander who tries not to get dragged into everything, but still doesn't quite get away unscathed. 

Holden's wife in this film, Beatrice Starlight, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress even though she had five minutes worth of screentime. That's an Oscar record. Basically, that one scene in the movie where Holden confessed to having an affair made Starlight a household name at the time. Pretty amazing stuff. Until someone can do better I think that is a Oscar record that will stand for a long time.

A surprise performance by Ned Beatty (you probably know him as the guy who got rode like a shetland pony by some dude with no teeth and a bad haircut in Deliverance) is yet another treat this movie provides. Beatty provides a surrealistic touch that gradually turn this movie into something a bit more bizarre. By the time the end comes it feels like we've stepped into an insane bit of fantasy. Sure, there was a bit of surrealism all along the way, but it was never more in full force than it was at the end.

This is a damn good movie and it's got a bit more of a documentary feel than it probably should considering it was made back in 1976, but I guess that's just a sign of how fucked up our television and news industry is today. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you liked it so much. It really is an awesome movie. Now you've seen Network and Taxi Driver (not sure about All The President's Men or Bound For Glory). How the fuck did Rocky win best picture in 1976? XD

    Network was over the top outrageous in the 70s. Now it seems downright prophetic. One of the things the movie was trying to do, was show what would happen if the networks viewed news as a profit item. When this movie was made, the networks were starting to lean that way some (and there were only 3 networks back then) but the network news did not necessarily operate for profit then. The networks viewed news as their duty and funded the news with the profits of the other programming. Cable has changed the game. When I see Glenn Beck, I think of Howard Beale. Glenn Beck is a crazy person that breaks down on the air and people love him for it. (At least some do) And there are a lot more like him too.

    70's movies are awesome because the directors were given much more freedom to do the movie they wanted than any time before or since. I think there are just as many talented directors today but the studios force things on them more than they did in the 70s.