255) Network (1976)
A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor’s ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.
9/10 – I’ve held off from putting this review up because it has stuck with me for so long since watching it. I initially struggled to describe the prophetic nature of this film and the relevance it holds today, but I hope this goes some way to persuade you to watch this film.
As the description says, we witness a deranged news anchor, Howard Beale, become exploited by the network for its own profitability and gain. Viewing numbers are key, tragedy sells and personal lives do not matter as the only thing that matters is what the sponsors think and if it can be marketed and sold.
The rallying cry of the news anchor beckons at the oil companies, the ‘mysterious’ global media corporations and the essential worthlessness of the human society in their efforts towards change. It’s relevancy today is incredible, and resulted in one of the most memorable scenes in cinema. I can’t imagine ‘journalists’ cheering when a terrorist attack or a robbery happens, but the way a common tragedy or misfortune is milked beyond all comprehension is certainly as apparent today as it is in this film. It is worryingly accurate.
The acting is excellent if not a little shouty, but the sharp script and solid performances allow each character to shine. As they take it in turns to yell their frustrations at the camera as loud as possible in a theatrical over the top manner, it can get a little much. I haven’t had to adjust the volume on the TV between scenes so much since watching Spring Breakers. However, it could just be their unbridled desperation and passion bursting out onto the screen, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Desperation to actually be heard, or for ratings, or for love, or for change. Each story arc is as interesting as the next and combined with the unpredictability of ‘Network’ it makes for an extremely entertaining film.
I’m not going to pretend that I knew what else was out in 1976, I can’t pass off a comment like ‘it deserved to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay’, or that ‘they definitely deserved best actor/actress’. They would be ill-founded statements as I haven’t seen the other nominees. They all won awards though (see the poster!), and it is a film that needs to be seen. It is a classic, a strangely relevant classic and it is rare that a film achieves this to the degree that Network did.
Highly recommended. (It’s on Netflix)