Monday, August 12, 2013
Retro Review: Network (1976)
Network: A Sharp Yet Somewhat Prophetic Satire On The Media
In today's society, the media has become a significant part of our culture, thanks to the Internet, cable news, reality TV, and even tabloid magazines. One film that seems to foresee this kind of influence that the media has on us as human beings is the 1976 satirical classic known as Network.
Network is about a TV network that exploits an ex-TV anchor named Howard Beale (Peter Finch) who starts ranting about the media and gives him his own show in order for them to boost their ratings. Along the way, it begins to affect not only him, but his colleagues, the skeptical Max Schumacher (William Holden) and the head of the network Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway).
What I Liked About It:
First off, I loved the acting. Peter Finch is terrific as Howard Beale, the cynical yet delirious ex-anchor who is eventually used as a pawn in his network's chess board. Faye Dunaway does an excellent job as Diana, the she-devil on Beale's shoulders who is enthusiastically devoted to her job and is almost television incarnate, whereas she's all about ratings. Even the actors who have one or two scenes, like Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her short-but-brief performance as Schumacher's flustered wife, do an outstanding job. I'd say this is because of the outstanding writing from Paddy Chayevsky, as well as the direction from Sidney Lumet. (May those two rest in peace).
Now, to explain why this film is prophetic, I'll give an example by describing a famous scene in the film where Howard Beale is going on an on-air rant and tells viewers to open their windows and shout "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore", which they do. To me, that scene shows how the film is prophetic because it demonstrates the media having influences on us as human beings and pretty much running our lives.
What I Didn't Like About It:
Overall, Network is a sharply written and directed satire that features outstanding acting from the cast and accomplishes a rare feat at showcasing a prophecy, which is something that not many films in the past have done, as it shows how TV and the media have become a part of our culture.