Film Rec: Network

Due to nutty professors constantly changing out which books are required for courses in Shakespeare (and my own laziness in obtaining the materials for a class on James Joyce), I will be venturing into miles and miles of bookstores in NYC today. Which also means taking in a film, visiting some record stores, and picking up some kind of fancy sandwich on fresh baked bread, all before taking my customary walk past every Broadway marquee to see who is playing what where when and guess why and how they got the part. Update later today. And no horror film this time, I swears. What a successful adventure in NYC. Aside from the required texts (Aspern Papers/James, Ulysses/Joyce, Portrait.../Joyce, Anthony and Cleopatra/Shakespeare), I also scored copies of Blonde by Oates and V. by Pynchon for my own collection. Which makes me feel better about the mild panic attack yesterday when I woke up and saw that my bookshelf disappeared and I had but two shelves left (redid the entire room, condensing collection to two shelves on my second hand computer desk, the rest of the books are all listed on PBS, sorted, and filed away in boxes in the closet). The shelves are full again, which makes me happy. Film Rec: Network (1976) It's not a horror film, though the content is more disturbing than most Hollywood horrors could aspire to be. It's from the 70's, though it feels extremely fresh and relevant in a pop culture society where the new breed of stars are characters like Tiffany "New York" Pollard and has been musicians looking for their new baby mama on VH1. It's also inevitable that I finally reach a discussion of this film, yet own no copy for myself and cannot rent it in my local stores. Network is significant among film aficionados for numerous reasons. It marks the first (and only) posthumous Oscar win (Peter Finch for Best Actor), Faye Dunaway's only Oscar win (Best Actress), one of the shortest performances on screen to ever win the Oscar (one scene wonder Beatrice Straight for Supporting Actress), and one of the most memorable and referenced scenes in the history of cinema ("I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"). There's also surprising bits of dark humor and extreme characters that don't quite cut it in most mainstream films. Take, for example, one of my personal favorite character introduction scenes in the history of the performing arts:

Diana Christensen: Hi. I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles. Laureen Hobbs: I'm Laureen Hobbs, a badass commie nigger. Diana Christensen: Sounds like the basis of a firm friendship.

What Network manages to do that makes it such an excellent example of writing is cast it's net extremely wide over film styles with a laser sharp focus plot wise. There's the character driven plot of Howard Beale's demise, the satire of the American network television industry, the workplace battle between everyone at the network, and even speculative drama on what could happen if television didn't stop going for extreme ratings events. Perhaps the single greatest achievement in the writing of the film is the opening preamble, that discloses the entire plot of the film without ruining its impact:

Narrator: This story is about Howard Beale, the acclaimed news anchorman on UBS T.V. In this time, however, he was a mandarin of television with a HUT rating of 16 and a 28 audience share. In 1969, however, his fortunes began to decline. He fell to a 22 share. The following year, his wife died, and he was left a childless widower with an 8 rating and a 12 share. He became morose and isolated, started to drink heavily, and on September 22, 1975, he was fired, effective in two weeks. The news was broken to him by Max Schumacher, who was the president of the news division at UBS. The two old friends got properly pissed.

Honestly, if any of this sounds appealing at all and you haven't seen Network, please do. If this doesn't sound appealing at all, understand that I haven't even begun to dig into the meat of the film and would require an entire month's worth of daily posts at least this length to do it justice; therefore, I recommend seeing the film. If you have seen the film, why not revisit it? I know I will.

Labels: film rec