Tag Archives: Network

Movie Review:”Network” at the Museum of Fine Arts

5 Jun

Peter Finch in his Oscar-winning role as deranged journalist Howard Beale in "Network"

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad.

You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell,

‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’

I can’t even begin to tell you how eerily these words resonated with modern times; you already know. For some mysterious reason, the film “Network” taps into every fear and suspicious we have about our agenda-driven media, the companies running the country into the ground, and the increased callousness of our fellow mankind.

And then exploits the hell out of it.

Exploitation is the driving evil of this film. A poorly performing news network decides to can its anchor after 25 years. The anchor, reacts appropriately to losing his job: he announces on his last week of broadcast that he will be committing suicide by next week, while on the air. The media blitzkrieg that follows forces the hands of the network to fire him on the spot. But the increased viewership of the show lures the corporation that owns the news network to give him back his job. The increased scrutiny and the madness that surrounds the anchor forces him to a nervous breakdown and one of the greatest rants of cinema history. Viewership skyrockets, and a young programmer for the station gets involved in order to turn the news hour to the media circus that viewers want (complete with a psychic). The network profits off the poor anchor’s demise, firing or rehiring him at any turn of ratings.

You'll never see the news the same way again.

Madness is a great way to describe this movie. Incredibly well written, well acted, and well shot, “Network” earns every Oscar it won back in1977. I would describe it as a cynical satire, as the network seems to have no human decency to what it decides to air. At one point, a weekly series is proposed to cover the violence of terrorists committing acts to further their cause. The network asks them to film it as propaganda for their cause. “Must-see TV” is a mantra to many of the characters you come to fear the most. In a robotic way, they seek for whatever will gain viewership the fastest. The network is just the mechanical extension to satisfy their bloodlust for ratings. At one point in the movie, the programmer has sex with one of her bosses, only to explain to him her proposal of ideas for a new hit show. Extreme, yes, but that’s what may happen when networking is the only thing on people’s minds.

I say the movie is cynical because there is no redemption for this sort of evil. Destroying others is its business, and it does not seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. Sweeps is coming up in November after all.

I highly recommend this movie. As a movie fan, its filled with great actors (Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, and William Holden to name a few), great dialog, and beautifully shot in a dingy pre-Giuliani New York. Those who remember the era would laugh at the old fashions, but its the old technologies that makes this a great period piece. Not much digital in the newsrooms back then, and the older news hounds remember the start of TV news.

The other part of this review, is the experience at the MFA. Yet, another “art” cinema that shows the best in international and independant cinema, as well as classics. The theater is a large room with comfy chairs and is set so every seat is a good seat. Like the Harvard Film Archive, this is an academic theater with no food allowed. The purpose of the theater is to watch the movie with rapt attention. But, the MFA gave its audience something most theaters don’t have access to: an archive of old trailers on original film stock. It was a bit of fun to see the original trailers for movies of that era like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Way We Were.” It was definitely worth the visit.

Well, I guess that’s its for me. As Howard Beale said “I just ran out of bullshit.”

For more information on “Network,” check out the imdb.com page.

For more information on MFA screenings, check out their site.