Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why Haven't I Seen That?: NETWORK

Welcome to a new installment of WHY HAVEN'T I SEEN THAT?, where we talk about a must-see or iconic movie that we have never seen...until now. This week we take a look at the 1976 prophetic Sidney Lumet film... NETWORK.  Enjoy!

Network is a film from 1976 by acclaimed director Sidney Lumet. The film stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, and Beatrice Straight. The film is a dark satirical look network news and somehow has managed to only feel more real, and more disturbing, as time has marched forward. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture), winning four for Best Actor (Peter Finch), Best Actress (Faye Dunaway), Best Supporting Actress (Beatrice Straight), and Best Original Screenplay (Paddy Chayefsky).

How I missed this classic I will never know. One of Lumet’s other films, 12 Angry Men, is a cornerstone for me and the subject of this (problems with news) is something I am extremely interesting in as I think it may be the greatest problem faced by modern society (and I say that completely seriously). After watching this film I may be more disturbed than ever before as this satire feels more real today than ever before.

There are so many positives in this film. The first thing I will start with is the script. It is brilliant. There is no other way to put that. The film is sharp, witty, clever, prophetic, and intelligent. Chayefsky deserved his Academy Award here in ways most screenwriters never will. The way everything is woven together is extremely solid and interesting making this film uniquely a classic.

The performances are similarly impressive. Peter Finch in particular stands out as a news anchor who becomes fed up with the network news system and is eventually sold as this profit solely for ratings after an on-air outburst. He is brilliant and magnetic and makes you, as an audience member, want to scream the film’s most famous line: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Faye Dunaway is also extremely solid as she plays this kind of snake in the grass network type who will do anything for ratings, including partner with a terrorist organization. The idea sounds so absurd that it could come off as equally absurd, but because of the writing and Dunaway’s performance it doesn’t play that way.

I can’t emphasize enough how important the message of this film is. It really talks about how we sell ourselves out in a vain attempt to get ratings and attention rather than doing or focusing on what’s right. In our modern age this message has gotten even more important, and though I’m not normally a fan of message films, I think the significance here is so great that it serves as a real positive for this classic.

The film has a few imperfections though. There definitely were a couple plot threads I cared less about in the story and though I could connect with what was happening I failed to attach myself to any of the characters. Also, the cinematography on this film is extremely weak and it doesn’t look great (especially with its age).

Overall, Network is a brilliant film with a stellar message. It has great writing and performances. It hasn’t aged immensely well visually, but it is maybe more poignant than ever. This is a film that absolutely everyone should check out!

Ryan’s Score: 9.5/10

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