Thursday, March 4, 2010

review: Network

Wow. After that, I don't think I ever want to watch tv again.
Not really, but it certainly doesn't help the way I feel about talk shows and news.
The movie begins with the firing of a man, and his radical on-air claim that he will kill himself next week. That both saves and damns him. From there, the Network, UBC, goes a little crazy, and the people go a little crazy, and at the end, you watch this group of execs in a board room discussing something (I won't say what) and you just sit there and think: How the hell did it come to this?
This movie is a very powerful (very dark) satire about networks of television, but it isn't that funny really (and by that I mean, that this is not the kind of humor you laugh at), and it is also is very cynical and a little scary. Not like horror movies or thrillers are scary, but terrifying in the way it looks at our lives and you don't like what you see.
The most famous bit of this movie is the broadcast where the newsman goes a little crazy and screams for the people to open their windows and shout "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore." What really got me is that moment, its effects, and the way the network used a meaningful moment and turned it into a meaningless slogan. The next time you hear the phrase is it being shouted by the audience like "What's my line?" and it loses all the power that moment held. I guess that is the moral. Television is a transient thing, nothing can stay "real" for long on it.
This movie won 3, 3!, Oscars for acting: Best Actor (Peter Finch), Best Actress (Faye Dunaway), and Best Supporting Actress (Beatrice Straight). That has only happened for one other movie in history: A Streetcar Named Desire. So that gives you an idea of how amazing the acting really is. Finch shows us a man who goes from an everyman who throws away inhibitions because he is fed up (and you cheer him) to a madman. He goes crazy, but you don't see it that way. You see him as a fighter, a rebel, a man bucking the system. Only when it gets too far do you realize that this is not a freed mind, but a disturbed one. What is somewhat creepy about that is that Finch, much like Heath Ledger, died before he could win the Oscar for his performance. This was the first instance of an actor being honored with a win posthumorously. Faye also shows us the rise and fall of a mind, but in a different way. She is best described in the movie as "television incarnate" She has a rises to be a very powerful person, but her complete rejection of any reality but television and ratings makes her cold, calculating, and on her own way to damnation. You almost feel sorry for her, but then she continues on her same path willingly, and then you know there is no hope for her and she will be one of those miserable people. Beatrice Straight is an interesting choice for winner of the Best Supporting. Her part is so small, but in it is packed the best speech ever given by the wife of an unfaithful husband. She is fantastic - and while you realize her part has to be that small, you want to see more of here, and you wish there were more like her. No kidding, her screen time totals 5m40s, and as of today she holds the record for the shortest screen performance to win an Oscar. Less than 6 minutes of time, and she does it so well that she wins one of the highest honors in acting for it. Impressive, I would say. Network was also nominated for 6 other Oscars, including Best Actor for William Holden, who, let me tell you, is brilliant in his role as well as Finch is.
The movie is also in the National Film Registry and is honored on both AFI top 100 lists as well as being honored in the #19 spot on the top 100 Quotes.
Despite the utter depressingness of this movie, I rather liked it, and I certainly think that this is one that everyone should see - especially people like me, who have grown up with television. I'm no slave to watching tv, but I am a child of the age, and there are some lessons to be learnt by people of this age from this movie.
4 out of 5 stars

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