Network (5/29/12)

NetworkMovie One Hundred Thirty Two

Network centers around the decisions of a TV network after a news anchor threatens to kill himself live on the air and the ratings spike.

After learning that his career as a news anchor will be coming to an end due to poor ratings, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) goes on the air and announces that he will kill himself live on the air. The network executives freak out, but eventually agree to let Beale get one more carefully scripted time on the air before being fired. Beale uses this time to rant about the state of the world and calls his life bullshit. Once the ratings see a noted spike, the executives, spurred by Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), decide to not only keep Beale on the air, but to highlight his now public meltdown.

It’s amazing how poignant and true to life Network is, even nearly 40 years later. I feel that the only satire that does everything better is Dr. Strangelove, which is saying a lot considering the amazingly high regard I hold that film. Since Network, we have been inundated with “reality” television and an increasing movement in a very similar brand of shock television that is cultivated in Network. While we haven’t reached the levels of mania depicted in this stunning Lumet film, it is not that far-fetched today.

While Network is a film that has a dark sense of humor, mostly due to the writing of Paddy Chayefsky, at times it is also very serious. I suppose that part of the humor is the absurdity happening, but also because it wants to be so ridiculous that there is an underlying humor there. Even when discussing alongside Dr. Strangelove, there really are no other films quite like Network. Sidney Lumet has directed yet another wonderful film that is absurd and thought-provoking. I’m not sure if I would recommend Network to everyone, but I’m sure almost everyone watching will have a slightly different takeaway from it.

I give it 4 “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore”s out of 5.

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