Movie Review: Network (1976)

In 2019 I found some old Word documents with movie reviews I wrote back before I had a blog. I’m posting each review backdated to the day I wrote it.

Title: Network
Release Date: November 27, 1976
Director: Sidney Lumet
Production Company:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

A movie made in 1976, it is both dated and timely, and at times positively prescient.  Dated because the technology and fashions of 1976 seem woefully inadequate compared to today’s hi-tech glitz.  Timely, because it takes on the issue of whether news is information or entertainment, and whether newscasters are delivering the news or preaching a gospel.  Prescient, because although this movie was made to be a satire, in some ways it could be a documentary on news networks today.  Howard Beale, the “mad prophet of the airwaves” is not too far removed from today’s angry on-air pundits.  A TV show about a left-wing terrorist group’s escapades precedes reality TV by 25 years.  Ned Beatty’s frightening monologue about the Saudis and corporations even summarizes the greater power that country and big companies have in the US political process in recent years.  The first part of the movie showing Howard Beale’s demise and the cynical use of the television network execs to use his madness to boost ratings is the better part of the movie.  The second part of the movie gets bogged down in a subplot about Howard’s friend Max and the program director Diane getting involved in an extramarital affair.  I suppose it’s all supposed to be a comic parody of how Diane scripts everything including her own life, but the scenes are hurt by the overly self-referential dialogue and misogyny. The fact that Faye Dunaway (who plays Diane) can’t act a lick doesn’t help these scenes either. The aforementioned Beatty monologue and a hilarious scene where TV execs and Marxists discuss how they will share the profits of their TV show save the second half of the movie. An interesting footnote, the phrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” is Howard Beale’s catchphrase is in wide circulation today, but apparently originated in this film

Rating: ****

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